U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents with mental disabilities have been mistakenly deported because they were unable to effectively defend themselves, according to a study released by the American Civil Liberties Union and the non-profit Human Rights Watch.
In one 2000 case, a U.S. citizen with cognitive disabilities was arrested by immigration officials in New York on return from a trip to visit her family in Jamaica. She was deported. In another in 2008, a U.S. citizen with bipolar disorder and developmental disabilities was deported to Mexico, and from there to Honduras and Guatemala, after signing a statement indicating he was a Mexican national. It took four months to return the man to the U.S. And in yet another case, a U.S. citizen with developmental disabilities was apprehended at a county jail in California where he was serving a sentence for trespassing. He was deported to Mexico in 2007, where he was lost for three months before he was located and returned to his family in California.
In the study, Human Rights Watch and the ACLU also interview 104 non-citizens with mental disabilities — and report that many of them face a likelier road to deportation because they have a limited ability to express themselves. Many of the estimated 57,000 mentally ill immigrant detainees in the U.S. will have no attorneys, and no way to notify judges that they're incapacitated. In the interviews, some of which were conducted in Texas detention centers, one individual did not know what a judge was, others were hallucinating, some did not understand the concept of deportation. Several could not read or write, tell time, name their birth place or say what day it was.
Texas Tribune donors or members may be quoted or mentioned in our stories, or may be the subject of them. For a complete list of contributors, click here.