Sunday, March 28, 2010

Mentally Challenged Immigrants Held in Detention for Four Years

Lawsuits against the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have been filed on behalf of Jose Antonio Franco and Guillermo Gomez-Sanchez, two mentally challenged immigrants who have been held in detention for four years.  Franco, 29, has mental retardation and is the son of two permanent legal residents of the United States.  Diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, Gomez-Sanchez, 48, is himself a legal permanent resident of the United States.  The two men have been transferred to many detention facilities while awaiting a hearing to contest the basis of their detention.  

            It has been pointed out by human rights organizations such as, Human Rights Watch, that ICE lacks fair policies when it comes to the detention of mentally challenged immigrants.  Franco, who is unable to tell time, is unlikely to recognize that he has been detained for four years, and he is also unable to advocate for his case to be sped up.  Having been detained for four years, Franco has still not received his bond hearing, where he would have the opportunity to be released to the care of his family living in the United States. Aryeh Neier, with Human Right Watch, spoke out against the treatment of these men by saying; "People this vulnerable need the courts to intervene to keep them from getting lost in the labyrinth of immigration detention."

            Sarah Mehta, who has been investigating ICE’s treatment of mentally challenged detainees for eight months, commented that the cases of these men are not unique and that there are many more mentally challenged immigrants who are trapped in the system.  A report will be published by Human Rights Watch in 2010, which will examine the lack of due process received by mentally challenged immigration detainees.  It is alleged that the lack of proper courtroom procedures impede the right to fair immigration proceedings, which is in violation of international human rights law.  

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