WASHINGTON, DC - The Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc. (CLINIC) applauds Attorney General Eric Holder's withdrawal of a decision written by former Attorney General Michael Mukasey which made it far more difficult for immigrants to reopen their immigration cases when they had ineffective assistance of counsel claims. Mukasey's decision, Matter of Compean, 24 I&N Dec. 710 (A.G. 2009), held that immigrants in removal proceedings had no right to counsel under the Fifth and Sixth Amendments. It further held that while the Immigration Judge could reopen cases when an immigrant was prejudiced by the actions of private counsel, the immigrant had to provide extensive evidence of this prejudice that was not required in the past. This decision dismissed the important role of the right to competent counsel in immigration cases. It also created new burdens for thousands of immigrants who face significant, life-changing decisions.
"CLINIC affiliates around the country see first-hand the importance of counsel and effective representation for the hundreds of immigrants that they represent every day. This decision lightens the burden for many of our affiliates," said CLINIC Executive Director Mark Franken. "We applaud Attorney General Holder's decision that recognizes the complexities of the immigration process and the right of immigrants to access counsel during a very difficult time in their lives."
Attorney General Holder's decision instructs practitioners to revert to the law that was in place before Mukasey's decision, Matter of Lozada, 19 I&N Dec. 637 (BIA 1988). This law allows immigrants to more easily reopen their cases if there is a possibility that they were provided ineffective assistance of counsel during their immigration proceedings. Immigrants who face Immigration Judges often must make the most important decision of their lives. Defending against deportation or seeking relief is a scary and complex process. Access to effective, legal representation is vital for immigrants to help them navigate the complex world of immigration law.
AG Holder's decision is available to read on the American Immigration Law Foundation website here.
Mukasey’s decision is available on the Department of Justice website.