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Florida Courts Bars Illegal Immigrants from Being U.S. Lawyers
The Florida State Supreme Court ruled on Thursday in a unanimous decision to bar immigrants here in the United States illegally from working as lawyers in the state. However, the only Hispanic member of the Court decried the decision as ‘unjust.’ The bar expands to all U.S. Illegal Immigrants, including the ones who came to this country as children. The Florida Board of Bar Examiners submitted a question to the court, but many say it came across as a plea to change the professional licensing law in the state legislature.

The question comes from a submitted bar admission application by Jose Manual Godinez-Samperio, a Florida State University law school graduate who is a Mexican immigrant. In 2011, he passed the bar exam after receiving a waver that allowed him to test without proving residency or U.S. citizenship. All lawyers who wish to practice in the state of Florida are mandated to become Florida Bar members. The Florida Bar is overseen by the Florida Supreme Court.

The justices cited the Obama administration’s actions regarding halting deportation of those individuals who parents entered the country illegally several years ago or overstayed their visas. However, the executive policies have not been passed by Congress as laws, so the justices said they don’t authorize the state of Florida to ignore the laws in place currently by Congress. Therefore, they will not admit unauthorized or illegal immigrants to become members of the Florida Bar. The court stated that while Federal law does permit individual states to make citizenship requirement exemptions in professional licensing, Florida is not one of them to do so.

During the ruling, the court justices also cited a case in California where the state allowed a person who came into the United States as a child illegally to join the California Bar Association. Justice Jorge Labarga wrote the applicant to the bar was much like himself, except for his different birth location. It was his reluctance with the ruling that also made him decry of the “injustice of the decision.”

He continued to write that the ten 9 year old, Godinez-Samperio came into the US with visas from Mexico and decided to stay here. He noted Godinez-Samperio did everything required of a lawyer, was an Eagle Scout, and a good student. Labarga also came from Cuba in 1963 and said his path to education, citizenship, and career advancement was received with open arms.

The bar applicant, Godinez-Samperio said during an interview that he plans on taking the issue to the state legislature. He conveyed his wishes to basically just have the state legislature fix the problem. He vowed to not give up on Florida and said he received encouragement from the written ruling of the justices’, while also being ‘moved’ by Labarga’s words.


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