Judicial Watch • U.S. Must Give Convicts Lawyers To Fight Deportation

U.S. Must Give Convicts Lawyers To Fight Deportation

U.S. Must Give Convicts Lawyers To Fight Deportation

DECEMBER 28, 2010

Shy of her first anniversary on the federal bench, an Obama-appointed judge known for promoting “racial tolerance” has ordered U.S. taxpayers to provide criminally convicted immigrants with “diminished mental capacities” lawyers to fight deportation.

The ruling is believed to be the first ordering government-financed legal representation in an immigration case. Foreign nationals embroiled in deportation proceedings must pay for their own attorney, unlike criminal defendants who get court-appointed lawyers—financed by American taxpayers—as part of due process when they can’t afford it.

In this case a southern California federal judge, Dolly Gee, ruled that two area immigrants who are “mentally disabled” must be given lawyers to fight deportation. The men, ages 48 and 29, are currently represented by a pair of liberal civil rights groups that claim people with mental disabilities cannot get a fair hearing without representation in immigration court.

The older man man, Guillermo Gomez-Sanchez, has various criminal convictions and served part of a two-year prison sentence before being released on bail. Among his offenses are battery against a police officer and assault. The younger man, Jose Franco-Gonzalez, completed a prison sentence for assault with a deadly weapon and his immigrant rights attorney claims he’s “moderately retarded” and doesn’t know his birth date or how to tell time.

In their lawsuit the men assert that federal officials deprived them of their constitutional right to due process and violated federal anti-discrimination laws designed to protect people with disabilities. Their pro bono lawyers at a nonprofit that promotes justice for low-income immigrants claim thousands of people with “severe mental disabilities” are detained without proper counsel nationwide.

Gee, the first Chinese-American woman to serve as a federal judge, opened the door to offering many of them taxpayer-financed attorneys, even if they have been convicted of serious crimes. This sort of advocacy is what got Gee, a Los Angeles attorney, her lifetime federal judgeship earlier this year. Veteran Democrat Senator Barbara Boxer said she recommended Gee because she “used her position as a prominent attorney in Los Angeles to promote racial tolerance and fight for justice for those who face discrimination.”


 

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