Franco v. Holder is a class action lawsuit on behalf of hundreds of immigration detainees in California, Arizona, and Washington who suffer from severe mental disabilities. The Obama administration has refused to provide an attorney, the most fundamental of legal protections, to these vulnerable individuals, even though they obviously cannot understand, let alone defend themselves in, their deportation hearings.

The ACLU has won rulings from the district court establishing the right to legal representation for all immigration detainees with a serious mental disorder that renders them unable to represent themselves. The victory represents the first time any court has ruled that a class of non-citizens are entitled to legal representation.
For reference, see the Franco Main Class definition, and the definition of pro se competency, or what abilities a person must be able to perform in order to represent themselves.

Case Developments

September 25, 2015
The Court granted final approval of the partial settlement in the case, clearing the way for class members to seek to reopen their immigration cases if they were ordered deported between November 21, 2011 and January 27, 2015, and did not receive the full benefits of the Permanent Injunction and Implementation Plan Order.

July 24, 2015
The Court has granted preliminary approval of a partial settlement in the case, which creates a path for reopening the immigration cases of class members who were ordered deported after November 21, 2011 and who did not receive the full benefits of the Permanent Injunction and Implementation Plan Order. Read the Summary Notice here. (Traducción del Aviso en español disponible aquí.)

March 2, 2015
A federal judge has appointed a monitor to oversee the implementation of the Court’s orders. The monitor can be reached at or 1-844-687-1800. Read the order describing the monitor’s duties.

October 30, 2014
A federal judge has ordered the U.S. government to implement a comprehensive system for identifying and protecting individuals with serious mental disorders in immigration detention centers in California, Arizona and Washington. Read the order.

April 23, 2013
Judge Dolly M. Gee issued a permanent injunction holding that the Rehabilitation Act requires the government to provide all Subclass One members with a Qualified Representative in their immigration proceedings, the first opinion recognizing the right to appointed counsel in immigration proceedings for a group of immigrants. The permanent injunction also requires the government to provide bond redetermination hearings for all Subclass Two members who have been detained for more than 180 days. Read the order here and read our press release here.

April 22, 2013
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement  and the Executive Office for Immigration Review announced new policies to provide enhanced procedural protections to detained immigrants with serious mental disabilities, including the Franco class. Read our press release here.

December 13, 2011
The Court ordered the government to locate our class members -- all immigrants with serious mental disabilities detained in California, Arizona, and Washington -- and provide us with information to allow us to protect them from unlawful deportation. Read the order.

November 21, 2011
The Court ruled that the case could proceed as a class action, thus allowing the ACLU to assist dozens of detainees with serious mental disabilities. Read the ruling.

May 4, 2011
The Court ordered the government to provide legal representation for Mr. Zhalezny, ruled that his father (who has no legal training and speaks little English) could not be forced to act as his lawyer, and ordered the government to provide him with a bond hearing.  Shortly afterward, Mr. Zhalezny was released from immigration detention. Read the order.

October 25, 2011
The ACLU's third amended complaint describes the history of several individuals with serious mental disabilities who were imprisoned without lawyers in our nation's immigration detention system. Read the complaint.

December 27, 2010
The Court ordered the government to provide legal representation to two of our named plaintiffs -- Ever Martinez and Aleksandr Khukhryanskiy -- both of whom have serious mental disabilities that render them incompetent to represent themselves.  This was the first published opinion ever requiring the government to provide legal representation to a non-citizen in immigration proceedings. Read the order.

Pro Bono Law Firm(s)

Sullivan & Cromwell LLP; Public Counsel; ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project; ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties; Mental Health Advocacy Services; Northwest Immigrant Rights Project; ACLU Foundation of Arizona

Date filed

July 19, 2016


United States District Court for the Central District of California


Hon. Dolly M. Gee

Case number

CV 10-2211-DMG