Monday, June 10, 2013

A step forward for mentally impaired facing deportation - NJLJ Editorial Board

The New Jersey Law Journal Editorial Board has commended the recent decision by federal District Judge Dolly M. Gee, in an ACLU-sponsored class action,  to require assistance to the mentally incompetent who face deportation.  That assistance may be by lawyers, law students, or otherwise qualified representatives from a social service organization.  It is a step forward. - GWC

A Reasonable Accommodation

We are moving, if fitfully, toward a national consensus that we must find an orderly way to deal with the millions of immigrants who came here illegally, overstayed visas or are subject to deportation as punishment for a crime. Each year, hundreds of thousands are deported, a consequence that for many is far more severe than that provided by criminal laws. Fifty years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court in Gideon v. Wainwright mandated counsel for those charged with a crime and who cannot afford a lawyer. Today, there is a crisis of representation due to the unavailability of counsel for huge numbers of aliens facing removal from the country.
A recent federal decision, certifying a class of mentally disabled immigrant detainees held in custody without counsel, is a step in the right direction. In Franco-Gonzalez v. Holder, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California held that the Rehabilitation Act, which bars discrimination by executive agencies, compels the Department of Justice's Executive Office of Immigration Review to provide class members with a "qualified representative" as a reasonable accommodation of disability.
After the district court ruling, the Department of Justice promptly announced that the EOIR will make qualified representatives available to unrepresented detainees who are deemed mentally incompetent to represent themselves in immigration proceedings. In addition, detainees identified as having serious mental disorders or conditions that may render them mentally incompetent to represent themselves, and who have been held in immigration detention for at least six months, will be afforded bond hearings.

1 comment:

  1. This is an interesting article. I used to work with a guy who was having deportation problems. He did not know anything about the process until he talked to a deportation attorney. He finally got informed and was able to fix the situation.