Immigrants Denied Counsel in Removal Proceedings


The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) managed to toss in yet another example of its warped perception of due process by denying immigrants the right to effective counsel. The Obama administration must reverse this un-American policy.

On Wednesday, Attorney General Michael Mukasey issued a decision stating that immigrants in removal proceedings do not have a legal right to counsel, or to effective representation.

Mukasey’s interpretation is that immigrants facing deportation cannot petition to have their cases re-opened because of the errors or incompetence of attorneys. Rather, according to the attorney general, they can throw themselves at the mercy of the DOJ’s discretion.

Mukasey’s slap at due process follows another undemocratic maneuver. He refused to allow meaningful public commentary on his plans to revoke the long-held right to appeal a case based on ineffective counsel.

The Bush administration’s decision to strip the rights of immigrants and to squash debate are part of an attempt to institutionalize bad practices at the Justice Department. Earlier this year, for example, we learned that some immigration judges were appointed through a political process, in violation of federal civil service laws.

The next attorney general could be Eric Holder. If confirmed, he must act quickly to undo this latest injustice by the Bush Administration.

The failure to do so could negatively impact immigrants and citizens alike. A traveling immigration forum makes that connection in a way that too many people ignore. This Saturday in New York, citizens are invited to give their testimony about how their lives have been affected by immigration policies that yank families apart.

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