A federal judge’s ruling could pave the way for taxpayer-funded legal representation for immigrants facing deportation in cases of mental incapacity–a move praised by civil libertarians but opposed by advocates of stricter immigration enforcement.
U.S. District Court Judge Dolly Gee recently ordered the U.S. government to give two mentally incapacitated illegal immigrants legal representation to fight their deportations. The decision was triggered by the case of Jose Franco-Gonzalez, 30, who spent nearly five years in immigration custody after pleading guilty to assault with a deadly weapon because authorities determined he was too mentally incompetent to represent himself in his own deportation hearings. Traditionally public counsel is not supplied in U.S. deportation cases
Gee ruled that Franco and another plaintiff be released and that additional plaintiffs in the case be given representation for their hearings, pleasing supporters who say the decision is a first step in ensuring that the rights of the mentally ill are not ignored.
But critics say the decision inappropriately places a new financial burden on American taxpayers and ignores the risk of keeping sometimes dangerous immigrants in the U.S.
“These are individuals who get lost in the system because of their serious mental illnesses. Many of them suffer from hallucinations, many of them suffer from paranoia caused by their hallucinations and they’re just simply incapacitated and unable to represent themselves,” Michael Steinberg, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs, told FoxNews.com.
But retired Immigration and Naturalization Service senior agent Michael Cutler says it’s not the government’s responsibility to provide legal defense for aliens who face removal from the United States.
Cutler says judges need to remember why we have immigration laws.
“The fundamental reason for immigration laws is to keep aliens out of our country or remove aliens from our country whose presence is harmful to our nation and/or our citizens. We have people involved with mental illness and prone to fits of violence based on mental illness–where’s the positive impact this has on America?” he said. “The idea that we want to be compassionate is misplaced if one of these guys goes off and injures someone or worse.”