Mentally Disabled Immigrants Win Legal Representation [VIDEO]

Posted May 16, 2013 in Government Immigration Video by


Jose Antonia Franco-Gonzalez spent nearly five years in detention, separated from his mother after his deportation case was closed. Severe mental impairment prevented him from defending himself. videojournalist Matt H. Mayes introduces you to Franco-Gonalez, who cannot even speak a complete sentence.

Jose Antonia Franco-Gonzalez

But in this landmark court case, a Los Angeles federal judge ruled the U.S. government must provide legal representation for mentally disabled immigrants who cannot afford lawyers and are facing deportation. Franco-Gonzalez’s lawyer, Ahilan Arulanantham, deputy legal director of the ACLU of Southern California, says this is first time that any court has recognized a right to free legal representation for any immigrant group facing deportation. The court’s jurisdiction is limited to three states. But a day after the ruling, immigration officials issued a new policy that expands the ruling nationwide.

Ahilan Arulanantham

In a interview, Arulanantham explained how he spent three years fighting tooth and nail for a policy that asked only for legal representation for the most vulnerable immigrants. He’s now hopeful that the Obama administration will extend this right to other groups of people who deserve such protections but cannot represent themselves — immigrant children.

No Kids in Prison Sign“The fact that children go in front of immigration judges, alone, and have to try to argue against their own deportation is an outrage and a shame,” said Arulanantham.

The judge’s ruling requires within 60 days immigration officials to begin providing legal assistance to mentally disabled immigrant detainees. If the policy goes nationwide, it could affect several thousands of people each year.


Tagged as: , ,