Appropriate treatment is difficult for most who live with serious mental illness. Often treatment is relegated to the detention system instead of appropriate community or in-patient facilities.
They get limited mental-health care while in detention, advocates say – and that’s only if they’re diagnosed. They aren’t entitled to competency hearings before standing trial. And the majority of them face judges without legal counsel, and with little recourse to defend themselves from deportation.
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“We are continuing to work … to improve the services and the availability of health care to those in our custody,” said Tim Counts, spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
But immigration court officials acknowledge there’s little guidance for how to handle mental health once these detainees come before a judge. Although judges can’t accept an admission of guilt from an “unrepresented incompetent,” there are no immigration-court proceedings to determine a person’s competency. Judges have to go with their gut – which can be tough to gauge with language barriers and the frequent use of long-distance video conferencing.
What is the solution? Is there a solution. I’d love to hear from you.