Law journal article on counsel and guardian for detained immigrants with mental illness
AFSC Detention Attorney Amelia Wilson and AFSC volunteer attorney Natalie Prokop recently published an article in the University of Pennsylvania Journal of Law & Social Change on the issue of representing detained immigrants suffering from mental illness. Their article, “Applying Method To The Madness: The Right To Court Appointed Guardians Ad Litem And Counsel For The Mentally Ill In Immigration Proceedings,” examines the unique obstacles these individuals face in obtaining counsel and assisting in their own defense. The solution Wilson and Prokop present is for a twin appointment of counsel and a Guardian ad litem at the government’s expense. Such a dual appointment alleviates the competency issue as well common problems associated with unrepresented individuals in immigration proceedings (including an increased likelihood of prolonged detention, unfair hearings, docket delays, and unjustified deportation). In a timely development, the Department of Justice recently announced that Immigration Judges should assign counsel where necessary for respondents suffering from mental incapacity. Amelia Wilson and fellow AFSC Detention Attorney Lauren Major have been successful in representing detained immigrants suffering from mental illness. Many of these detainees fell into the criminal justice system by virtue of their mental illness and, as non-citizens, are then shuttled into immigration detention. Immigration Judges have reached out to IRP staff for assistance, and the two attorneys now regularly intervene in competency hearings and often obtain protection from deportation.