A 2014 report titled “One Billion Forgotten: Protecting the Human Rights of Persons Living with Disabilities” by the Human Rights Watch (hereinafter referred to as HRW) highlights the plight of persons living with disabilities. We will be discussing efforts made by the United States, Libya, Croatia, Russia, Ghana, Peru, South Africa, Northern Uganda and Nepal in its protection of persons living with disabilities. The HRW made an exposition on efforts for increased ban on discriminatory immigration policies for persons with disabilities in the United States in “Deportation by Default: Mental Disability, Unfair Hearings, and Indefinite Detention in the US Immigration System.” The 2010 report states that in the United States, immigrants living with mental disabilities are unjustly detained and are also precluded from making claims for citizenship or against deportation.
It’s been a decade since the HRW publication and just very little has been done to improve the plight of persons living with disabilities. Volume 7 of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Manual still stipulates that persons with mental or physical disorders as well as harmful behaviours connected with such disorders are barred from being immigrants. In Immigration and Disability in the United States and Canada, Mark C. Weber highlights that despite the apparent liberalization of stringent laws discriminating against persons living with disabilities, much is been left on the altar of unilateral ‘discretion’ of consular officers in immigration cases. It is the debate that immigration laws have shifted from disparaging ‘moral’ arguments which advocate against ‘racial degeneration’ by side-lining persons living with disabilities. The rationale for discrimination has metamorphosed in present times to the economic impact of persons living with disabilities. Unjustifiably, persons with disabilities are now excluded on the grounds of the potential economic burden they may constitute to tax payers.
Article 18 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities clearly provides that: “States Parties shall recognize the rights of persons with disabilities to liberty of movement, to freedom to choose their residence and to a nationality, on an equal basis with others”. Sadly, more needs to be done by way of advocacy and increased global to ensure that the United States ratifies the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and aligns its domestic laws in accordance with its dictates. Also, equal protection should be afforded persons living with disabilities in removal proceedings. Most significantly, the draconian approach in which an expansive level of discretion is left at the behest of immigration officers to determine the success or otherwise of immigrant application by persons living with disabilities should also abolished.