Mentally Disabled Immigrants may have Right to Counsel in Removal Proceedings

Mentally Disabled Immigrants may have Right to Counsel in Removal Proceedings

A U.S. District Court Judge in California recently held that the federal government must provide representation for mentally disabled immigrants in removal proceedings.  U.S. citizens have been entitled to the right to representation to be provided for by the government under the 6th amendment of the Constituion, but this protection has been held to not apply to immigrants in removal proceedings.

However, the ACLU became involved in two cases of men with mental disabilities who were placed in removal proceedings. The ACLU argued on their behalf that without the aid of representation, the men were not able to understand the nature of their proceedings, and thus are not able to adequately argue their own cases and cannot be assured a fair hearing.

Those against providing foreign nationals in removal proceedings with representation argue that they should not be entitled to represenation paid for by the government because by the very nature of the proceedings, they are either in the country illegally or the government has a case for removing them. On the other hand, many of the rights protected under the Constitution are those relating to the criminal justice system, means it protects the rights of criminals or at least those whom the government has a case against. Thus, the argument must follow, if immigrants are treated like criminal when they are placed in removal proceedings, shouldn’t they also be guaranteed the same rights as criminals?

Based on these concepts, the U.S. District Court Judge held that in this instant, the men’s due process rights could not be protected unless they were provided with representation at the government’s expense.

Though this decision has a very limited holding and does not have any binding effect on other courts, this is an important first step towards providing immigrants in removal proceedings with additional rights.

Just as the United States has an interest in ensure people’s rights are not violated in criminal proceedings and that the innocent are not wrongfully convicted, the United States should have the same interest in ensuring that people’s rights are not violated in removal proceedings and that individuals are not wrongfully deported.

If you or someone you know are in removal proceedings, please contact us.  We can help discuss your options and ensure your rights are protected.