Report Launch: "Sent 'Home' with Nothing: The Deportation of Jamaicans with Mental Disabilities"

April 8, 2011 —

The U.S. is deporting particularly vulnerable people - including those with mental disabilities - to an environment in which their human rights are at risk. This is the conclusion of a new report by Georgetown University Law Center students entitled "Sent 'Home' with Nothing: The Deportation of Jamaicans with Mental Disabilities."

"U.S. immigration policies and practices do not adequately protect the human rights of mentally disabled persons," said Katharine Nylund, a member of the nine member fact-finding team and a third-year student at Georgetown Law. "Individuals are being deported without consideration of the extreme difficulties they face upon arrival in their returning countries and without the consistent implementation of U.S. policies regarding the provision of medication."

The report is based on interviews, conducted by the students in both Jamaica and the U.S., of deported persons with and without mental disabilities, their family members, mental health professionals, social service providers, academics, government officials and human rights advocates.

The students analyzed how U.S. deportation policies affect the human rights of mentally disabled persons and discovered that these individuals encounter severe reintegration barriers. They contend that many become homeless, face discriminatory employment practices, lack adequate medical care, are subjected to exploitation and violence and confront widespread and deeply engrained stigmas against deportation and mental disabilities.

"There are several simple policy changes that the U.S. could make to increase the ability of deported persons with mental disabilities to access medication, medical treatment, housing and employment when they arrive in their receiving country," said Katie Shay, a second-year student at Georgetown Law and a member of the fact-finding team.

The students recommend that the U.S. secure the transfer, with consent, of medical records to designated family members, caregivers, or healthcare providers; secure housing and employment for individuals in their returning countries and establish a memorandum of understanding with each receiving country to advance best practices for the deportation of mentally disabled individuals. They also recommend that the U.S. follow the lead of the European Union and Canada, among others, by extending protection against deportation to immigrants who would face serious risks if returned to their home countries.

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