Attorney General Ends Constitutional Protection for Immigrants From Lawyers' Mistakes

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Maria Archuleta, (212) 519-7808 or 549-2666; media@aclu.org

Attorney General Ends Constitutional Protection for Immigrants From Lawyers' Mistakes

Immigrants With Legal Standing at Risk of Being Deported

NEW YORK - In
a radical departure from years of legal precedent, Attorney General
Michael Mukasey has ended the practice of allowing immigrants to reopen
immigration cases that they lost because of their lawyers' mistakes or
incompetence. Mukasey's order, which is effective immediately, may lead
to the deportation of innumerable immigrants who have lost their cases
due to attorney error.

"This order will have a tremendous
negative impact on countless people who will be deported simply because
they had the bad luck to be represented by the wrong immigration
attorney," said American Civil Liberties Union Immigrants' Rights
Project Deputy Director Lee Gelernt. "This is a dangerous move away
from the U.S. tradition of fairness and due process. Losing your case
because your lawyer missed a deadline or made some other egregious
error can never be considered a fair process."

In early August 2008, Mukasey
instructed that any briefs responding to the proposed reversal of the
right to claim "ineffective assistance" of counsel be submitted by
mid-September. After many organizations and lawyers protested that this
provided insufficient time to respond to such major legal and policy
issues, he extended the deadline a scant three more weeks, preventing
organizations opposing the change, including the ACLU and the American
Bar Association (ABA), from providing a meaningful response.

"Days before President-elect Obama
takes office, the Bush Justice Department has taken another step to
undermine the fundamental rights of a uniquely vulnerable group," said
ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project Director Lucas Guttentag. "This cries
out for reform to preserve the core values of equality and fairness."

Mukasey's order, as well as letters
to Mukasey from the ACLU, the ABA, the American Immigration Law
Foundation and numerous partners at some of the country's most
prestigious law firms opposing the change or objecting to insufficient
time allotted for submitting briefs are available online at: www.aclu.org/immigrants/gen/37064res20081007.html

 

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

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