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Tuesday, July 23, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

$9.5 Million Fee Award|for Disabled Immigrants

LOS ANGELES (CN) - A federal judge awarded mentally disabled immigrant detainees $9.5 million in fees in a settlement that may allow those deported to return to the United States to contest their cases.

In 2013, U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee ordered the Obama administration to provide legal assistance to hundreds of immigration detainees not mentally capable of representing themselves. The injunction covered detainees being held in California, Washington and Arizona.

Gee followed that with an October 2014 order for federal immigration officials to screen immigrants for mental disorders as soon as they are taken into custody. Those procedures were reportedly enacted in January.

The ACLU Foundation of Southern California represented a class of immigrants with serious mental disabilities who sued the government in 2011 in the case Jose Antonio Franco Gonzalez v. Eric Holder.

Gee granted a final settlement in the case in September and followed that with an Oct. 8 ruling for $9.5 million in attorney fees and costs. The class had initially sought $15 million.

Under the settlement, the ACLU said, the U.S. government has agreed to allow those deported without a competency determination after Nov. 21, 2011 to return to reopen their cases. The government would pay transportation costs, the civil rights group said.

"Ultimately, all were denied a fair day in court," ACLU Southern California executive Hector Villagra said in a Sept. 25 statement. "This settlement ensures that individuals who were ordered deported in violation of the law will finally have an opportunity to obtain the benefits of the court's landmark ruling."

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