Deportees Lose Their Constitutional Rights

Houston Immigration Lawyer Annie Banerjee sees this as the final blow against immigrants from the dreadful Bush Administration.

For an immigrant or an immigrant family, the consequences of being deported from the United States can be catastrophic. Legal representation throughout the deportation process is essential; however, U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey’s recent 34-page opinion is yet one more sign of an outgoing Bush Administration showing little respect for human dignity. They seem to want to shred every hope of justice for immigrants ensnared in deportation proceedings. “The Bush Administration has been trying to erode all constitutional rights for eight long years,” insists Houston-area attorney Annie Banerjee, “but to determine that aliens have no right to due process? This is outrageous.”

Mukasey’s ruling dispenses with a 1994 precedent established in the Matter of Lozada that allowed aliens to obtain a new hearing due to lawyer error. While aliens have no Sixth Amendment right to counsel, Lozada acknowledged their right to effective assistance under the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment.

The opinion does not rule out aliens succeeding on their claims of ineffective assistance, but it is expected to sharply reduce their chances. “Now aliens being prosecuted in deportation proceedings don’t even have the right to open up a case with a new attorney, even if a previous attorney has screwed up,” Ms. Banerjee asserts, “There are so many cases in which lawyers miss deadlines or fail to assist effectively in procedural or substantive matters. To compound this issue, almost all of these defendants do not understand our legal process, and most don’t even understand English. To add insult to injury, since 2006, a lot of immigration judges have been political appointees without a shred of experience in immigration matters, and hidden agendas can influence their decisions. That kind of situation could place political asylum seekers in grave danger if they’re returned to a country that wants to kill them.”

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