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Apr 25, 2013 1:50 AM by Associated Press

Mentally deficient immigrant detainees get counsel

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Federal officials are implementing a new policy that guarantees legal counsel to detained immigrants who can't represent themselves because of severe mental disorders or conditions that render them mentally incompetent.

The national policy announced by Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security officials this week comes after the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles.

In 2010, the ACLU won a right to representation for two mentally disabled men who spent years in custody. Both were legal residents facing deportation after criminal convictions.

The lawsuit expanded to class-action status, and a judge ruled in the ACLU's favor Tuesday.

The new policy includes competency hearings for detainees and a screening process for serious mental disorders.

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