ACLU Seeks Release Of Two With Disabilities
Calling them “forgotten,” the American Civil Liberties Union is asking for the release of two men with disabilities who have spent five years each in immigration detention centers.
Jose Antonio Franco Gonzalez, 29, has been in immigration custody since April 2005 even though a judge already determined that he is not competent to understand the proceedings against him. The son of legal residents, Gonzalez has an intellectual disability and does not know how old he is or how to tell time. He was in the process of seeking permanent residency when he was arrested in the midst of a gang fight in 2004.
The ACLU now says the Costa Mesa, Calif. man is being held without due process and should be released to his family.
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“It’s horrifying that a man with a serious mental disability could languish in detention for such an extraordinary length of time without an open immigration case against him and without even a simple bond hearing,” said Talia Inlender, an attorney who has been advocating for Gonzalez’s release.
Meanwhile, immigration officials are also holding Guillermo Gomez-Sanchez, 48, who has been in custody since 2005 despite having paranoid schizophrenia and posing no risk of flight or danger, ACLU officials said.
The ACLU is now seeking the release of the men — who are both Mexican nationals — so that they can be reunited with their families. In petitions filed in federal court, the ACLU says that the men are being deprived of their right to due process and that the detentions are in violation of both immigration law and federal disability protections.
“These men were completely forgotten in the immigration prison system, their cases neglected for years. In other words, they were punished for having a mental disability,” said Ahilan Arulanantham of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. “Nobody tracked their cases, or even knew why they were detained.”
Though declining to comment on these specific cases, a spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement told the Orange County Register that the agency doesn’t “detain for punitive reasons.”
It is estimated that 15 percent of those detained by immigration officials have some type of mental disability, though there are no standard procedures for dealing with such detainees.