The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Maria Archuleta, (212) 519-7808 or 549-2666;

Holder Moves To Restore Fairness To Immigration Proceedings

Attorney General Withdraws Bush Administration Ruling Denying Immigrants Protection From Lawyers' Mistakes FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


a major step towards restoring key legal protections for immigrants
facing deportation, Attorney General Eric Holder today withdrew a
last-minute Bush administration order that severely restricted the
right of immigrants to reopen immigration cases lost because of their
lawyers' mistakes. Holder also stated that he will review the problem
of "ineffective assistance" in immigration proceedings to determine
whether additional protections are necessary.

The American Civil Liberties Union
had urged Holder to reconsider former Attorney General Michael
Mukasey's ruling that overturned years of established legal precedent
just days before Mukasey left office.

"Attorney General Holder correctly
recognized that fairness and due process apply to everyone including
immigrants," said Lee Gelernt, Deputy Director of the ACLU Immigrants'
Rights Project. "By restoring the longstanding right of individuals to
challenge immigration proceedings lost because of lawyers' mistakes,
innocent immigrants at risk of being deported through no fault of their
own are once again protected by the rule of law. Holder's decision will
profoundly affect the lives of many immigrants and their families."

Deportation hearings, held in
special immigration courts, are overseen by the Justice Department.
Holder's decision makes clear that the rule of law guarantees
individuals fundamentally fair deportation proceedings and ruled that
immigration cases lost due to "ineffective assistance of counsel" is
grounds for a new hearing.

"The winners today are fairness and
due process. Attorney General Holder has taken a huge step in the right
direction, and we applaud his decision. The Obama administration
recognizes that immigrants facing deportation, including longtime
permanent residents with U.S. citizen children and family, should not
be denied fair hearings because of incompetent or unscrupulous lawyers
who fail in their duty to provide proper representation to vulnerable
immigrants, many of whom lack fluency in English and an understanding
of the complex procedures that govern their hearings. It is now
essential that the Justice Department take the same position in pending
court cases," said Lucas Guttentag, Director of the ACLU Immigrants'
Rights Project.

Mukasey's ruling was issued in
January 2009, after a truncated decision-making process that did not
allow sufficient time for many lawyers and legal organizations to
prepare and submit legal briefs on the issue. Although the rushed
process drew protests from prominent legal and civil rights
organizations, Mukasey did not significantly expand the amount of time
for submission of briefs.

Attorneys who worked on the brief
include Gelernt, Guttentag, Caroline Cincotta, Michael Tan and Farrin
R. Anello of the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project.

Attorney General Holder's ruling regarding the Compean decision can be found online at:

The ACLU's friend-of-the-court brief and other information are available online at:

More information on the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project is available online at:

The American Civil Liberties Union was founded in 1920 and is our nation's guardian of liberty. The ACLU works in the courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all people in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.

(212) 549-2666