Photo: Immigrant Detainees Class-Action Suit
A federal court in California has granted class-action status to a group of unrepresented immigration detainees with mental disabilities, an important step in helping ensure they get access to legal counsel.
The ruling comes in response to a lawsuit filed last year on behalf of a group of detainees, including José Antonio Franco Gonzales, a Mexican immigrant with moderate mental retardation who was detained in federal immigration facilities for over four years without a hearing. Judge Dolly Gee of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California found that the problems identified in the lawsuit are systemic, and there is no mechanism for evaluating whether immigration detainees with mental disabilities are able to represent themselves.
About 33,000 immigrants are detained daily and government estimates indicate that over 1,000 of them have mental disabilities. The government has no procedure to resolve their cases, including for individuals who are unable to understand the proceedings against them due to severe mental disabilities.
The ruling, which was unsealed by the judge this week, applies to cases in Arizona, California and Washington.