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ESI - Above and Beyond

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In a published decision, BIA shields mentally incompetent detainee from unfair removal proceedings.

ESI entered the U.S. as an LPR in 1980.  In 2011, DHS served him with a Notice to Appear, which is the official notice from the government that initiates removal proceedings in immigration court.  ESI had an extensive mental health history--of which DHS was aware--that included his long-term battle with paranoid schizophrenia.   In a December 2011 decision, an immigration judge terminated removal proceedings because the Department of Homeland Security failed to deliver the Notice to Appear to ESI in a manner that complied with regulations protecting the interests of mentally incompetent persons accused of immigration violations.  The government appealed the immigration judge’s decision, and the BIA Pro Bono Project selected his case for representation.


Walter Ruehle of the Cornell University Law School Immigration Appellate Law and Advocacy Clinic, together with law students Matthew Danforth and Anna Angel, successfully represented ESI on appeal before the Board of Immigration Appeals.  Mr. Ruehle’s hard work and commitment to seeking justice for his especially vulnerable client culminated in a published decision by the BIA.  Matter of E-S-I-, 26 I&N Dec. 136 (BIA 2013), now stands as the Board’s definitive articulation of the government’s responsibility to employ safeguards when initiating removal proceedings against persons with limited mental capacity.