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Should Undocumented UCLA Law Grad be Able to Practice Law?

By Tanya Roth, Esq. | Last updated on

Luis Perez has just graduated from UCLA Law (ranked No. 15 in the nation). He is hard-working, optimistic, articulate. Would you hire him? Would it make a difference if you found out he was the first undocumented immigrant to graduate from UCLA Law? He is, and he hopes that status will change so he can pursue the life in law he has worked so hard for. But, as with everything else in Perez's life, there are no guarantees.

Perez has "done everything right" according to the report about his accomplishments in The Los Angeles Times. However, since he crossed the border from Mexico with his parents as an 8-year-old, he has no assurances that he will be able to pursue a career that includes anything more than the construction job he currently works to pay off his law school debt.

Perez is one of the many smart students who will need the Dream Act to legally pursue their goals of higher education and employment. The Dream Act would give a path to legal residency for undocumented immigrants who graduate from college or serve honorably in the military, reports The Times. President Obama has asked Congress to pass the Dream Act by the end of the year.

Luis Perez has already had a positive effect on education for illegal immigrants in the Golden State. According to The Times, while still in high school, he helped lobby for the passage of AB 540, the law that allows in-state tuition to also apply to resident students who are in the country illegally. That work was supported recently when the law was upheld by the California Supreme Court.

A USSC challenge most likely lies ahead for SB 540, and other challenges remain for Perez. First up, the bar. Next, working to convince the others he has not only earned the right to become an American citizen, but a lawyer. Luis Perez may well be successful, he already sounds like an old hand at the bar. When discussing the Dream Act and the status of illegal immigrants, Perez told The Times, "Being undocumented is not a criminal issue, it's a civil issue," he said. "The law sees us not as lawbreakers but as people without legal status."

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