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A rule limiting access to lawyers for immigrants facing deportation has been tossed out by the Obama administration.


The rule was issued in the waning days of the Bush administration, angering immigrants rights groups that immediately sought to persuade the incoming Democratic administration to discard it.

On Wednesday, Attorney General Eric Holder did just that, saying he is vacating the order issued by predecessor Michael Mukasey which said that immigrants facing deportation do not have an automatic right to an effective lawyer.

Holder said he is also instructing the Justice Department to begin working on a new rule.

Charles Kuck, president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, called the move "the beginning of the restoration of due process in the immigration system."

Kuck said that Holder's decision "recognizes we can't treat immigrants any differently than ourselves if we expect to receive the same benefits the Constitution provides."

Mukasey had issued a 33-page decision in January saying the Constitution does not entitle someone facing deportation to have a case reopened based upon shoddy work by a lawyer. Mukasey also said, however, that Justice Department officials have the discretion to reopen such cases if they choose.

Immigrant rights groups had criticized the Mukasey decision, saying such immigrants subject to deportation are particularly susceptible to sham lawyers claiming to do legal work on their behalf.

Holder said in a statement that Mukasey's decision had not allowed for enough public comment on the issue.


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