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US immigration law: Are personal rights violations occurring?

Many Florida households include members who have special needs. While some people's needs involve physical impediments, such as those who need wheelchairs for mobility, others have conditions that impede mental ability, such as bipolar disorder or autism. Caring for those who have special needs is often less stressful when families can rely on strong support networks in their communities. This topic has intersected U.S. immigration law in another state, where legal advocates say that immigrants who qualify for special protections under the law are being denied their rights.

There are at least three states where immigrants who show signs of mental incapacitation are entitled by law to free access to legal counsel. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials are required to flag the records of those who show signs of adverse mental health. Such individuals may then attend competency hearings to determine if they meet the eligibility requirements for special protections.

Attorneys acting on behalf of a group of immigrants in detention say they believe noncompliance with federal law regarding this issue is a big problem. The federal order stems from a class action lawsuit that was filed in 2013. The attorneys say noncompliance is placing many mentally ill immigrants at risk for removal because they are unfit to represent themselves in court but have not been provided the free access to legal counsel for which they qualify under special protection laws.

Anyone in Florida who believes his or her rights under U.S. immigration law have been denied may request a meeting with an experienced immigration law attorney. Especially if an issue involves a loved one with special needs, seeking legal support may be a key factor toward protecting his or her rights. An attorney can provide guidance and assistance regarding other issues as well, such as legal status problems, family separation issues or basic questions regarding visas, green cards or other documents.

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