Amina Mudey fled Somalia in order to receive political asylum in the U.S. Once she arrived, though, she was medically misdiagnosed and never given an interpreter. First featured on CBS News' 60 Minutes, Ann Schofield Baker, Mudey's attorney, explains her client's story.
Mudey first came to the United States to escape the horrors she had experienced in Somalia, including genital mutilation and other physical violence. Her father and siblings had been killed. Mudey's mother sold their family's only possession - their home - in order to raise enough money to send Mudey to the States. Once she arrived, though, a new struggle began.
"When she came to the United States, she was immediately brought to the Elizabeth detention center in New Jersey and the asylum proceedings started," says Schofield Baker, who took the case Pro Bono. "When she first arrived, she had a panic attack of some kind and was taken to a hospital. And it was at that time that she was misdiagnosed as being psychotic - she is in no way psychotic. And that's when her real problems at the detention center began."
Mudey was prescribed an anti-psychotic drug - Risperedol - and began experiencing severe side effects. "One of the worst symptoms of all was that she appeared to be mentally ill when she is incredibly intelligent," says Schofield Baker. When Mudey began to lactate because of the drug, medical professionals at the Elizabeth detention center gave her a pregnancy test instead of further examining her symptoms. An interpreter was never offered to help Mudey express her ailments more clearly.
Scholfield Baker feels that her client's case is not isolated. "This is a systemic problem," she says. "It's not isolated to illegal immigrants... The problem pertains to people who are seeking asylum who have committed no crime."
In the end, Mudey was granted political asylum in the United States after proper legal proceedings. "She is in this country legally, she has her social security card, she's entitled to go to school. So now, she's basically starting her life anew," says Scholfield Baker.
In an effort to further help her client succeed in America, Scholfield Baker's law firm - McKool Smith - has set up a trust fund for Mudey. 100% of the proceeds collected will be given to Mudey to help pay for housing and educational expenses she will incur in the U.S. To donate to the fund, click here to visit the McKool Smith website.
For more information on problems in U.S. detention centers, visit www.WashingtonPost.com.
By Erin Petrun
Copyright 2008 CBS. All rights reserved.