The Emerging Standard of Competence in Immigration Removal Proceedings: A Review for Forensic Mental Health Professionals

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Forensic mental health professionals are likely to become increasingly involved in immigration court proceedings in coming years; however, little published work has discussed the significance of recent developments for forensic mental health assessment. Removal (i.e., deportation and exclusion) proceedings are complex and highly consequential hearings during which immigration respondents have a right to be meaningfully heard. Due to the civil nature of the hearings, immigration respondents are not afforded the same rights as criminal defendants (e.g., appointment of counsel, competent participation). The past 3 years have seen substantial changes to the standards for identifying and assessing competence issues within immigration proceedings, and the United States Department of Justice, Executive Office of Immigration Review recently released the first set of guidelines for this emerging area of forensic mental health assessment. In this article, we summarize legal developments that have given rise to an emerging competence standard in removal proceedings, analyze the first official competence-for-removal standard and framework, and call attention to some pressing practice, ethical, and policy issues.



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