For Immediate Release


Nadine Wettstein, Director, American Immigration Law Foundation, Legal Action Center, phone 202-236-0958 or

American Immigration Law Foundation

AILF Applauds Attorney General Holder's Withdrawal of Bush Administration's No-Right-To-Counsel Decision


American Immigration Law Foundation (AILF) applauds Attorney General
Eric Holder's withdrawal of a decision issued by outgoing Attorney
General Michael Mukasey that purported to unravel decades of legal
precedent on the important role of and right to competent counsel in
immigration proceedings.
Mukasey's last minute legal opinion affected many thousands of people
facing life-changing consequences - namely, deportation. Mukasey's
decision held that immigrants facing deportation have no legal or
constitutional right to representation by a lawyer. Thus, he said, they
have no right to complain or seek redress if their rights were violated
because of incompetent representation.  
Mukasey's decision was Matter of Compean, 24 I & N Dec. 710 (A.G.
2009). The Attorney General's decision says that the Department of
Justice will initiate rulemaking procedures on the right to relief for
ineffective counsel in deportation proceedings. In the meantime, the
decision says, the law will revert to the prior law, which provided an
avenue for victims of ineffective counsel to reopen their cases.  
AILF submitted extensive legal arguments to Mukasey on this issue
and spearheaded a  letter to Holder in February 2009, joined by 130
other organizations, asking him to take these precise actions.
"We are very encouraged that Attorney General Holder appreciates the
importance of immigrants' rights in deportation proceedings," said
Nadine Wettstein, Director of AILF's Legal Action Center (LAC). 
"Mukasey's decision, if left in place, would have created years of
confusion in the immigration and federal courts and would have resulted
in potentially thousands of people being thrown out of the country
without having had their day in court." 
"We are gratified that Attorney General Holder has expressed a higher
regard for the fundamental principles of due process and improving the
integrity of immigration court decisions," said Ben Johnson, AILF
Executive Director.    

  • The Attorney General's decision today is available here
  • AILF's letter to Holder and related materials are available here.
  • Mukasey's decision in Matter of Compean, 24 I & N Dec. 710 (A.G. 2009) is available here.

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