Blog of Rights

Carmen
Iguina
Historic Decision Recognizing Right to Counsel for Group of Immigration Detainees

Historic Decision Recognizing Right to Counsel for Group of Immigration Detainees

By Esha Bhandari, Equal Justice Works Fellow, ACLU & Carmen Iguina, Equal Justice Works Fellow, ACLU of Southern California at 11:22am
In a landmark ruling yesterday, Federal District Judge Dolly M. Gee ordered the federal government to provide legal representation for immigrant detainees in California, Arizona and Washington who have serious mental disabilities and are unable to represent themselves in immigration court. This is a historic decision — it is the first ever to recognize a right to appointed counsel in immigration proceedings for a group of immigrants. Unlike the criminal justice system, where judges are generally required to appoint counsel for defendants who cannot afford a lawyer, there are no safeguards in the immigration enforcement system to ensure the basic fairness of having legal representation for immigrants. As a result, over half of all individuals in immigration court — including 84% of detained individuals — must face the complex legal proceedings alone and unrepresented, while the government is always represented by a lawyer.
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