ICE reforming policies

ACLU’s complaints about how developmentally disabled detainees are handled prompted the changes.

March 29, 2010|By Joseph Serna

U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officials said Monday that it is instituting changes to its detention system for mentally disabled detainees after public criticism of its procedures last week by the American Civil Liberties Union.

In appeals to federal courts in Southern California, the ACLU called for detention and bail reviews for two immigrants — one of whom is from Costa Mesa, and whom ICE has detained for years without processing.

Jose Antonio Franco Gonzalez, 29, has been held by ICE for five years, even though a judge determined in 2005 that he is mentally unfit to be processed by immigration enforcement.


Gonzales does not know his age or birthday, can’t tell time or dial a phone, ACLU officials said in a news release. The organization would like to see him released to his family in Costa Mesa.

Gonzalez was arrested and convicted of throwing a rock and cutting a man’s face during a gang fight in 2004.

In May 2005 he was being processed through ICE when a psychiatrist determined he has a developmental disability and impaired cognition.

A few weeks later, an immigration judge closed the deportation proceedings against Gonzalez on those findings, and he has since been detained.

Over the years, ICE officials have not conducted a hearing to determine if Gonzalez was a danger to the public or a flight risk, the ACLU claims.

Another man, Guillermo Gomez-Sanchez, 48, was also detained for years without a psychiatric evaluation, and authorities fought releasing him in spite of a judge’s order, according to the ACLU complaints.

The ACLU is calling for reforms to the system and for the men’s release.

ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice said the department is reforming the process, offering increased treatment for prisoners with mental disabilities and regular reviews of detainee populations.

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