Sufficiently safeguarded?: Competency evaluations of mentally ill respondents in removal proceedings

Report Author: 
Sarah Sherman-Stokes
Original Date of Publication: 
May, 2016

The outcomes of civil immigration cases, such as removal proceedings and asylum, have serious implications for migrants. The complex and confusing systems, processes, and practices of immigration court are compounded for immigrants who are incompetent or have mental illnesses. Therefore, immigrants deemed mentally incompetent are sometimes given court appointed legal counsel or guardians, but not assistance from mental health professionals. Furthermore, in immigration removal proceedings, immigration judges make the final decision regarding a migrant's mental competency rather than licensed mental health professionals. Here it is important to note the standard or definition for mental competency is different in the legal field than it is in the mental health or social services field. In order to ensure a fair and adequate competency evaluation with access to benefits, Sherman-Stokes (2016) recommends that qualified mental health professionals play a vital and primary role in the competency evaluations for immigrants in civil immigration hearings. In collaboration with immigration court systems, mental health professionals can offer necessary advocacy, support, and services to vulnerable immigrants in civil immigration court proceedings. (Immigrant Integration Lab)

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Sherman-Stokes, S. (2016). Sufficiently Safeguarded: Competency Evaluations of Mentally Ill Respondents in Removal Proceedings. Hastings Law Journal, 67(4), 1023–1065.

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