It’s a script for a great horror story—or nightmare. Being:
- mentally ill,
- jailed, perhaps indefinitely, and
- without a lawyer or guardian or anyone to speak for you?
And it’s happening right now in America.Indigent mentally ill persons are placed in immigration detention and ordered deported from the United States every day. They have no right to a free lawyer nor to a court-appointed representative to speak on their behalf. Many have stories like Xiu Ping Jaing: an immigrant who fled human rights abuse in her home country only to be caught in a system dubbed by one expert the “American gulag.”Other mentally ill people in immigration detention are not immigrants at all: they’re US citizens who, without help, can be detained for years or deported away from family members who were never informed of the action taken and are frantic to find their missing loved ones.For many human rights problems, the solutions are complex. This isn’t one of them. In July, PHR joined human rights groups across the United States in asking Attorney General Eric Holder to take common-sense steps:
- appoint lawyers for mentally ill detainees who can’t afford them,
- set up a fair process to determine individuals’ competency to face deportation hearings, and
- appoint guardians ad litem for individuals found incompetent.
[download id="18"]In ratifying the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the US agreed that
all persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person (Art. 10(1)).
The Obama Administration can, and must, act now to ensure that the mentally ill in our immigration jails are treated with the dignity they deserve.