Victory for Immigrants: Matter of Compean Vacated

June 3rd, 2009

Today, Attorney General Eric Holder vacated the decision issued in Matter of Compean, Bangaly & J-E-C-, 24 I&N Dec. 710 (A.G. 2009), by outgoing Attorney General Michael Mukasey and instructed the Board of Immigration Appeals and the Immigration Judges to apply the previously established standards for reviewing motions to reopen based on claims of ineffective assistance of counsel.” Int. Dec. No. 3643, 25 I&N Dec. 1 (A.G. 2009).  AG Holder’s withdrawal of this dangerous decision is welcome news. 

The decision in Matter of Compean upended decades of legal precedent regarding the right to effective counsel in immigration proceedings and severely restricted the right of immigrants to reopen immigration cases lost because of their attorneys’ mistakes. Mukasey in Matter of Compean held that immigrants in deportation proceedings have no legal or constitutional right to representation by a lawyer. Therefore, he concluded they have no right to challenge their deportation orders if their rights were violated because of incompetent legal representation.

AG Holder also stated that he will review the problem of ineffective assistance of counsel in immigration proceedings to ascertain what additional protective measures may be implemented to resolve the problem. This is unequivocally a welcome decision in support of due process rights and the integrity of the US immigration courts.