Deported Immigrants with Mental Disabilities

On September 26th, 2015 U.S. District Judge Dolly M. Gee granted final approval of the settlement in Franco v. Holder, paving the way for previously deported immigrants with severe mental disabilities to request to reopen their cases in Immigration Court, and if approved return to the United States.  

The suit was originally filed by the ACLU Foundation of Southern California in 2010 on behalf of Jose Antonio Franco-Gonzalez and Guillermo Gomez-Sanchez.  These two men were accused of illegal immigration, found mentally incompetent to represent themselves, and detained in immigration jails for several years inside the United States.

The decision in Franco v. Holder follows a 2013 injunction containing the first opinion recognizing the right to appointed counsel in immigration proceedings for a group of immigrants.  Subsequently, an implementation order was given in 2014 that required the federal government to establish comprehensive screening and competency hearings.  These rulings, while emphatically steps in the right direction, left hundreds of cases unresolved for those with mental disabilities deported before the rulings went into effect.   

Hector Villagra, executive director of the ACLU of Southern California said in a statement: “For too long individuals with mental disabilities were forced to represent themselves in deportation proceedings, or allowed to languish in immigration jails.”

According to the settlement terms, the federal government has agreed to assist with the return of all individuals whose cases are reopened and to pay transportation costs for some of the immigrants to return to the United States.

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