Despite the fact that Attorney General Michael Mukasey has only been the Justice Department head for little over a year, he appears committed to the Bush administration’s de-prioritization of civil rights by denying due process to immigrants, asylum seekers, and others facing deportation. The American Immigration Law Foundation has released a statement that condemns this unjust decision:
In a decision issued Wednesday, January 7, the Attorney General declared that henceforth, immigrants, asylum seekers, and all others in removal (deportation) proceedings do not have any right under statute or the Constitution to representation by a lawyer before they can be ordered deported. The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) and most federal courts have for decades operated under the premise that immigrants DO have such rights. The Attorney General has reversed many years of precedent and operation by simply declaring it so. According to the Attorney General, because there is no legal or constitutional right to a lawyer, immigrants do not have the right to legal counsel and thus no right to complain or request a new hearing when their lawyer is incompetent or fraudulent. The Attorney General does attempt to ameliorate the harsh impact of his revolutionary action by allowing reopening of cases in certain highly extreme circumstances, but his declaration will wipe out the rights of all but a handful of people with one stroke of his pen.
Barack Obama has chosen Eric Holder to be the next Attorney General. We urge this new administration to restore the Office of Civil Rights and get back to the Department of Justice that the Bush administration has worked so hard to strip away.