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Judge Orders Immigrants be Represented

By Brandon Ortiz

     In possibly the first ruling of its kind, a federal judge ordered the government Wednesday to provide legal representation to two mentally disabled men facing deportation.

     The ruling, in a class-action lawsuit filed by American Civil Liberties Union chapters in San Diego and Los Angeles, Public Counsel and Sullivan & Cromwell on behalf of Ever Francisco Martinez-Rivas, 31, and Aleksanber Petrovich Khukryanksiy, 45, also held that the men are entitled to bond hearings.

     U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee found the government violated the indigent men’s constitutional right to due process and protection under disability laws by failing to provide representation in immigration proceedings.

     The ruling only applied to Martinez and Khukryanksiy and did not apply to the class, which Gee has not certified.

     The ACLU is aware of only one other case in which a judge ordered representation in immigration proceedings, an Oregon case involving a juvenile in 2009.  That order was a minute order in which the court did not explain its reasoning, said Ahilan Arulanantham, an attorney with the ACLU of Southern California.

     The plaintiff attorneys estimate that as many as 700 immigrants facing deportation proceedings nationwide suffer from severe mental illness.

     “Unfortunately, the stories of these two men are not unique,” Public Counsel lawyer Talia Inlender said in a statement.  “Their plight is the direct result of a system that lacks procedures to address the needs of those with serious mental disabilities.”

    Martinez is being detained near San Diego, and Khukryanksiy in Tacoma.