AILA Hopeful that Attorney General Holder Will Rescind Matter of Compean Decision

Tuesday, February 3, 2009
George Tzamaras

WASHINGTON, DC -- The American Immigration Lawyer Association (AILA) welcomes Attorney General Eric Holder's statement that he will reexamine a Bush Administration legal decision about the right to counsel in immigration hearings because the Constitution and the immigration law require that deportation proceedings be fundamentally fair. AILA is very hopeful that Mr. Holder will rescind former Attorney General Mukasey's decision in Matter of Compean and ensure that the fundamental guarantee of due process in the Fifth Amendment applies to everyone in America.

On January 7, 2009, former AG Mukasey certified Matter of Compean to himself and overturned over 20 years of precedent recognizing that people's due process rights must be protected in deportation hearings. His ruling stated that Fifth Amendment due process rights do not include any right to complain or have a new hearing even if the lawyer's work is defective, fraudulent, or completely absent.

In written testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Mr. Holder said: "The Constitution guarantees due process of law to those who are the subjects of deportation proceeding." This principle is especially important since even U.S. citizens may find themselves facing a deportation hearing in which legal protections are essential to proving citizenship. This guarantee of due process and legal rights would also protect unsuspecting immigrants who fall prey to unscrupulous notarios who fail to properly navigate our complex maze of immigration laws. A fair day in court is essential for all people facing deportation since the failure to be adequately represented could result in persecution in the individual's home country, prolonged detention, and permanent family separation, among other extreme hardships.

The individual immigrants involved in the Compean case will be filing motions this week officially asking the Attorney General to reconsider and withdraw the decision, which will be supported by amici curiae, including the American Immigration Law Foundation, American Immigration Lawyers Association and others.

Attorney General Eric Holder’s statement regarding Matter of Compean is available at AILA Doc. No. 09020363.


The American Immigration Lawyers Association is the national association of immigration lawyers established to promote justice, advocate for fair and reasonable immigration law and policy, advance the quality of immigration and nationality law and practice, and enhance the professional development of its members.

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 09020375.