The consequences of deportation can be devastating. Despite the gravity of removal from the United States, the Constitutional Sixth Amendment right to counsel does not apply in immigration proceedings. There is no right in removal proceedings to have an attorney appointed by the court. Many indigent immigrants must represent themselves or retain the most inexpensive private attorney they can find. The results are what would be expected.
Importantly the Constitutional right to Due Process does apply in deportation proceedings. Due Process guarantees a fair process. Due Process ensures that the parties will be heard. And although there is no right to an appointed attorney there is the to right to effective assistance from the attorney hired. Having an effective attorney is the first step in a fair process.
Immigration proceedings do not have the same protections as a criminal trial. Especially in light of the ubiquitous disclaimer that deportation is not punishment. The reality is deportations impact life and liberty and deserves heightened safe guards.
For example, Lawful Permanent Residents have a substantial stake in the community and justifiable reliance on their continued rights in society. Deportation destroys that stake. Deportation separates family members who immigrate in order to be together.
And for those immigrants who migrated as children, many have very few ties if any to their home country. Deportation can amount to exile to a strange land, where many do not speak their native language and have no family.
Unfortunately, many immigrants do not always receive a fair hearing and adequate representation. The immigration bar is infamous for attorneys missing filing deadlines, failing to seek discretionary relief, and committing errors that imperil their clients. When these lawyers act incompetently, through neglect, or indifference they violate the professional standards expected.
The Constitutional guarantee of Due Process is the only protection of liberty and a fundamentally fair process. When attorneys are negligent the fairness of the process is compromised.
The devastating consequences of deportation and the importance of competent representation in navigating the complexities of the immigration process mandates serious safeguards to vindicate one of the most central values in the Constitution, Due Process.