Mental Health Assessments for Immigration Cases: A Practical Guide

Undocumented immigrants comprise a sizable portion of the population in the United States. Due to their illegal status, they face a host of challenges that ranges from discrimination to lack of access to health care. Fortunately some recent changes to immigration law have come about, that provide immigrants the opportunity to apply for citizenship and to receive health benefits. These statutes require that petitioners undergo metal health assessments as a part of the formal evaluation process, and affidavits prepared by mental health professionals must be presented to support these petitions. Unfortunately, for those mental health professionals seeking a holistic understanding of laws and ethical practices involved in these types of assessments, there isn’t a comprehensive source of information readily available. This document proposes a guide for mental health practitioners to conduct ethical and effective mental health assessments for undocumented immigrants seeking legal status. Information is provided on the types of Visas available for this immigrant population. Important ethical issues that are unique to the elaboration of these assessments are discussed Furthermore, the best practices for conducting interviews, supporting diagnosis, as well as drafting the narrative of these assessments are provided.

The findings in this document reflect the author’s training and experience, existing research available regarding assessing undocumented immigrants, as well as reported best practices developed by specialists in the field of immigration mental health assessments.

Fernando Ferrell
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