Featured News 2014 Legal Aid Mandated for Mentally Disabled Immigrants

Legal Aid Mandated for Mentally Disabled Immigrants

Back in April of last year, the New York Times reported that many immigration courts mandated that legal aid be provided for any mentally disabled immigrants that are currently awaiting possible deportation. A federal judge in California formerly ordered immigration courts in three states to provide legal representation for any immigrants that are proven to have mental disabilities.

Unlike criminal trials, immigrants do not have the automatic right to an attorney when arrested and put in an immigration detention center. Even children that are arrested and are facing deportation are not given an attorney and are expected to represent themselves unless they can afford to hire a sucesful immigration attorney.

While immigrants have the right to hire an attorney to help them with their case, the court will not appoint an advocate to work for them if they cannot afford to hire a private lawyer. Now, those that are deemed to be mentally disabled are entitled to have a lawyer by their side, whether or not they can afford to hire one.

This ruling stemmed from a class action lawsuit that was brought in 2010 by the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups. One plaintiff in the lawsuit was an immigrant who was detained for more than five years after his deportation case was closed because he was severely mentally retarded. The immigrant was unable to argue for himself in court because of his condition and didn't even understand the situation or why he was locked up.

In April, the federal immigration officials issued new policies that would expand the ruling about representation in immigration representation for mentally retarded individuals to be a nation-wide situation. The legislation provides government-paid attorneys for all mentally disabled immigrants that are facing deportation in every state. This policy indicates that The Justice Department accepts the judgment that was arrived at in the California court.

Associations such as the American Immigration Lawyers Association are thrilled about the ruling and hope that it will bring a degree of fairness to deportation trials concerning those that are mentally ill. As an example, the New York Times writes that one immigrant who was mentally disabled was arrested and placed in a detention center to fend for himself in the immigration courts.

This individual cannot tell time, does not know his age, and does not understand why he has been detained. This particular immigrant was shuffled around in detention homes for five years without a hearing to determine whether he was a safety risk because of his mentally stability or a test to learn whether or not he was mentally competent to face an immigrant judge. Lawyers believe that there are several thousand mentally incompetent immigrants arrested and placed in deportation centers each and every year.

Now, the new guidelines were drafted and passed by the Executive Office for Immigration Review and the Justice Department branch in charge of the courts. The legislation says that immigration judges are now able to order mental competency hearings for immigrants who may have serious disorders. The immigration judge can also request to see the defendant's medical records to see if there is any history of mental disability.

The justice officials have argued that although the federal government would have new costs to pay for legal assistance, the measures would save money overall because it will reduce the expenses of prolonged detention for these immigrants that are disabled, The judge will have the discretion to order legal assistance from an immigrant at government expense if he or she believes that it is necessary. If you are looking for a private immigration lawyer to represent you in your case, don't hesitate to contact the firm today to learn more!

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