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Should Undocumented Law Grad Be Admitted to FL Bar?

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on April 18, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

They were brought here as children, yet they have stayed as adults. They have successfully made it through law school and passed the bar, yet they can't practice law. They are the nation's undocumented law grads, and the latest of them is Jose Godinez-Samperio, 25, of Tampa, Fla.

Like many other associations across the U.S., the Florida Board of Bar Examiners doesn't know what to do with Godinez-Samperio. They've therefore asked the state's highest court to decide whether his immigration status should preclude his admission to the bar.

Should it?

Some say it should, including William Gheen, president of Americans for Legal Immigration. "No one who has shown this guy’s level of contempt for American law should be practicing law," he told the Sun Sentinel. Others instead argue that it would be "unfair to deny him the credentials he’s earned." Some also believe it would be "a waste of exceptional talent for our profession."

Florida is one of many states that now ask bar applicants to submit proof of immigration status before they sit for the bar. Jose Godinez-Samperio has been honest from the start, according to the paper, and even declared his lack of documentation when he applied for college and law school. The state let him take the bar knowing that it would eventually need to take the issue to the Florida Supreme Court.

But even if the court grants him a license, he can’t legally work in the U.S. He can, however, still take pro bono cases.

Godinez-Samperio is not unique, and neither is the upcoming hearing. Cesar Vargas was brought to the U.S. at the age of 5, and recently passed the New York bar. He, too, is waiting for an answer, reports the Palm Beach Post. The California Supreme Court must also grapple with the issue in the case of Sergio Garcia, a UCLA law grad who was brought to the U.S. at 17 months.

Should the profession fault these undocumented law grads for not wanting to leave the only home they have ever known? Or were they morally required to return to their birth countries before they could come back to the U.S. and practice law?

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