Today there is wide recognition that there is a crisis of representation due to the unavailability of counsel for huge numbers of aliens facing removal from the country.
A step forward has now been crafted in an important ruling by a federal judge in California’s Central District – a place where the pastures of plenty are often harvested by immigrants. Though the numbers affected are small, the remedial innovation is important. In Franco-Gonzalez v. Holder federal District Judge Holly Gee in 2011 certified a class of “mentally disabled immigrant detainees who are held in custody without counsel”. She has now held that the Rehabilitation Act [29 USC 794]- which bars discrimination by an Executive Agency – compels the Department of Justice’s Executive Office of Immigration Review [EOIR] to provide class members with a “Qualified Representative” as a reasonable accommodation of disability.