Immigrants, especially those with mental disabilities, face nearly insurmountable odds in trying to prevent their deportation and gain legal status in the US. US immigration law is a complicated jumble of statutes enacted over the past 60 years that is in desperate need of wholesale reform. The good news is for detained immigrants with serious mental disabilities in California, Arizona, and Washington, help may be on the way.
To anyone who has worked in the immigration detention system, last week’s news that the Department of Justice (DOJ) has uncovered evidence of systematic profiling and discrimination against Latinos in Maricopa County, Arizona comes as no surprise. While Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has gained a reputation for aggressively targeting Maricopa County’s undocumented immigrant communities for arrest, the DOJ’s findings – including pervasive discrimination against non-English speaking inmates, raids in Latino communities based on complaints about people with dark skin speaking Spanish, and failure to investigate sex crimes committed against Latinos, including Latino children – are stunning.
Ripped Apart by the Immigration System: Immigrant Parents of US-Citizen Children Should be Afforded Prosecutorial Discretion
Reports and criticisms of the immigration system tend to focus on the hardships felt by the detainees themselves, incarcerated and facing possible deportation. Far less attention, however, has been paid to their children. A recent study conducted by the Applied Research Center shows that 25% of individuals deported in 2011 left behind a US-citizen child. Because Child Protective Services (CPS) cannot legally place these children with undocumented family members such as aunts, uncles, or grandparents, the children end up falling into the general ranks of an expensive and already overcrowded foster care system.
Bipartisan efforts are few and far between these days, but finally, there seems to be one issue that House Democrats and Republicans can agree upon: no one held in US custody should be at risk for rape or sexual assault.
The incremental steps taken by the US government to reform the immigration detention system have been outmatched by the furious pace at which people have been forced through it in the last two years. With nearly 34,400 immigrants detained every night, the need for strong, binding regulations and comprehensive oversight has never been greater.