In November 2019, a federal judge in California ruled that the U.S. government must provide mental health services to the thousands of migrant families that have been separated at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Judge John Kronstadt of the United States District Court in Los Angeles relied on the legal doctrine of "state-created danger," finding that the federal government is liable for the psychological trauma on families separated at the border. The ruling came after a lawsuit was filed by a group of migrant families who argued they suffered life-altering psychological trauma that could continue to affect their health for years to come. The families cited instances where they didn’t know for months where their family members were located and were unable to communicate with them.
This case marks a rare instance where the government has been held responsible for its actions and policies causing mental trauma. Under its “zero-tolerance policy” between 2017 and 2018, the government forcibly removed children from their parents and prosecuted those who crossed the border illegally. The policy was suspended in June of 2018 amid public outcry. The court found the zero-tolerance policy created severe mental trauma to parents and their children. The court’s order represents a situation where the government is being held accountable for creating a danger that inflicts trauma. The government is now tasked with providing a solution.
Solutions to the Trauma
The federal government must now institute mental health screenings to the thousands of families that were separated at the border in 2017 and 2018. The government must also immediately provide mental health treatment to these individuals. It may be a requirement that these services be provided on a long-term basis. The process may be expensive and cumbersome as many of these migrants are now spread across the country. The families are also in various stages of immigration proceedings. It is presumed that, given the cost and burden of this order, the federal government will appeal, saying that the court got it wrong.
If you or a loved one has a mental disability and has been arrested or convicted of a crime, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. Elizabeth Kelley specializes in representing individuals with mental disabilities. To schedule a consultation call (509) 991-7058.