Immigrant finds way through maze of detention

The New York times follows up a May story on a mentally ill immigrant detained in Florida with the latest developments in the case.

Xiu Ping Jiang, a waitress with no criminal record and a history of attempted suicide, was locked away in an immigration jail in Florida. Often in solitary confinement, she sank ever deeper into mental illness, relatives say, not eating for days, or vomiting after meals for fear of being poisoned.

With no lawyer to plead for asylum on her behalf, she had been ordered to be deported to her native China, from which her family says she fled in 1995 after being forcibly sterilized at age 20. Too ill to obtain the travel documents needed for the deportation to take place, she was trapped in an immigration limbo: a fate that detainee advocates say is common in a system that has no rules for determining mental competency and no obligation to provide anyone with legal representation.

If immigration courts were required to offer the same basic protections for the mentally disabled as any other court, advocates say, Ms. Jiang’s prolonged detention — which cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and put her life at risk — could have been avoided.

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