Review of Immigrants Legal Assistance Spurs Worry

The right for immigrants to appeal a deportation order because of their attorney's mistakes or incompetence is under review, and immigrant advocates fear it’s in jeopardy. WNYC Marianne McCune has more.

REPORTER: There are some great immigration attorneys, and some bad ones. Even some con artists. Sometimes they miss deadlines; sometimes they make egregious mistakes. For the last 20 years, immigrants have had some recourse when their attorney’s blunders ruin their chances of staying in the U.S. – they can appeal their cases by claiming what’s called "ineffective assistance."

But in early August, Attorney General Michael Mukasey decided to review that right. He chose a few cases to revisit and asked immigrant rights groups to submit briefs answering questions like, "Is there a constitutional right to effective assistance in immigration hearings?"

The deadline for responses is today. And though a Justice Department spokesman says the review does not mean a policy change is planned – immigrant groups are worried Mukasey will quietly abolish a fundamental right. For WNYC, I’m Marianne McCune.