Systemic Failure: Mental Illness, Detention, and Deportation
UC Davis Journal of Immigration Law and Policy, Forthcoming
35 Pages Posted: 1 Jun 2010 Last revised: 29 Sep 2010
Date Written: June 1, 2010
Our detention and deportation system failed Tatyana Mitrohina. She was born in Russia with heart defects and deformed hands. She was rejected by her parents for many years, spending her infancy in hospitals and institutions. Though she was later able to move back home, her parents abused her and then abandoned her. She immigrated to the United States as a young teen, adopted by U.S. citizens. After more than a decade, she had a child of her own, whom she abused. Tatyana was diagnosed with mental illness. Although she was convicted of child abuse, the state court recommended medication, counseling, and a chance to regain custody of her child. But ICE took over, and Tatyana was removed and her child was taken away permanently. She should not have lost her child. She should not have been removed.
This article discusses the victimization of Tatyana Mitrohina by the U.S. detention and removal system. However, this article also recounts some of the choices made along the way of Tatyana’s life, including choices that were manifested in the outcome of her removal proceedings. The choices include those made by her parents, the state court, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, the immigration judge, her lawyers, and policymakers. Of course, Tatyana’s choices and even the choices made by the immigration clinic I help to direct are relevant.
In this article, I describe Tatyana’s background, the incidents that led up to her being taken into ICE custody, and her removal proceedings. As she was in detention and suffering from mental illness, I describe some of the special challenges that detained respondents in removal proceedings encounter, as well as the special challenges faced by those who are suffering from mental illness. I describe how different choices made along the way affected the outcome of the case, and finally, I make note of how alternative choices could very well have resulted in a better outcome for Tatyana.
Keywords: immigration law, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, mental illness, deportation, detention, removal proceedings
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