Saturday, January 17, 2009

Deportees not entitled to effective counsel?

Earlier this month, U.S. Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey certified yet another decision to himself, this one effectively eliminating the right to effective assistance of counsel for people in removal proceedings in immigration court. The decision, Matter of Compean, means that all persons in removal proceedings, including asylum seekers, have no statutory, constitutional or other right to representation or effective representation before being removed from the country.
Immigration professors and advocates are outraged at this latest in a string of decisions by the Attorney General to certify cases to himself -- cases governing issues left dormant or neglected over the course of the last eight years of this administration -- in a rush to make law before the inauguration of the new President this coming Tuesday. Last year, the AG certified to himself Matter of A-T-, dealing with female genital mutilation, in which this author wrote an amicus brief on behalf of 125 medical entities and institutions, and about which IntLawGrrl Jaya Ramji-Nogales posted here.
Concerned immigration advocates call this latest decision another attempt both to destroy the already minimal due process rights of noncitizens in the United States and to further limit the possibility of federal judicial oversight. Challenges to Matter of Compean are already being drafted and filed, but for the time being, this case is law -- and those about to be deported can no longer claim that their attorneys were ineffective in assisting them in court.

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