Washington Law Review


This Comment explores the problems aliens in deportation hearings face in obtaining legal assistance under the current law. Our adversarial system of justice traditionally recognizes the need for participants to have the benefit of professional and knowledgeable legal assistance. Congress has given aliens a statutory right of access to counsel through the Immigration and Nationality Act ("INA"). This right, however, is not being uniformly extended to aliens in deportation hearings. Part of the problem is financial. Although aliens have a right to counsel, the INA does not provide government assistance for aliens unable to pay attorneys. The ultimate result is that an indigent alien has no right to appointed counsel. Circuit courts have responded to this problem by using a case-by-case review. In some cases the courts have determined that lack of counsel can prejudice an alien enough to amount to a denial to the right, and even a denial of constitutional due process. This Comment proposes an alternative uniform approach which would provide a meaningful right to counsel for aliens in deportation hearings and lead to consistency in the circuit courts.

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