Government

Florida Court Says Illegal Immigrants Can't Be Given License to Practice Law

By: Allison Nielsen | Posted: March 6, 2014 5:30 PM
Florida Supreme Court

Florida Supreme Court

Illegal immigrants cannot be given a license to practice law in Florida, the Florida Supreme Court ruled on Thursday.

The unanimous decision revolved around the case of  Mexican immigrant Jose Godinez-Samperio, a Florida State University law school graduate who came to the country at the age of 9 with his parents. His parents’ visitors’ visas expired, but they continued to stay in the country illegally.

Godinez-Samperio excelled in America. He became valedictorian of his high school class. He was an Eagle Scout. He attended college, and later law school. He studied for the bar exam -- and passed -- in 2011. He reached a road block, however, when the time came to be admitted to the Florida Bar. Last year, the Florida Supreme Court denied his motion for admission to the Florida Bar.

To Justice Jorge Labarga, who will become the first Cuban-American chief justice in Florida in July, Godinez-Samperio is "the type of exemplary individual the Florida Bar should strive to add to its membership."

But the court ultimately said a 1996 federal law prohibits people who are unlawfully in the country from obtaining professional licenses -- including a license to practice law. The justices said it’s possible for state law to override the federal ban, but Florida hasn’t yet taken any steps to do so.

"Simply stated, current federal law prohibits this court from issuing a license to practice law to an unlawful or unauthorized immigrant," the court wrote.

Labarga related closely with Godinez-Samperio, comparing his story to Labarga's own life.

“In many respects, the applicant’s life in the United States parallels my own,” wrote Labarga. “He and I were brought to this great nation as young children by our hard-working immigrant parents. We both learned to read, write, and speak the English language within a short period of time. We excelled scholastically and graduated from college and law school."

Some legislators expressed their disappointment over Thursday’s ruling, sounding off that the court’s decision symbolized a real need for immigration reform in the United States.

“I believe today’s ruling epitomizes the flaws in our nation’s broken immigration system and the need for comprehensive immigration reform,” said Rep. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa. “By all accounts, Jose has proven himself to be a hard-working law school graduate of high honors who simply wants to continue contributing to our state and nation. I share in the disappointment over today’s ruling.”

Despite the unified vote on the issue, Labarga urged the Florida Legislature to change the law to end exclusion of illegal immigrants.

"The Florida Legislature is in the unique position to act on this integral policy question and remedy the inequities that the unfortunate decision of this court will bring to bear," he wrote.



Reach Tampa-based reporter Allison Nielsen at Allison@sunshinestatenews.com or follow her on Twitter at @AllisonNielsen. 

 


Comments (46)

M Rowland
9:28PM MAR 9TH 2014
He was a valedictorian and passed the bar exam so he is obviously intelligent, but not smart enough to become a citizen.
Timothy Smith
3:46PM MAR 8TH 2014
Immigration reform? Yes. But if at all practical, rather than a blancket amnesty program, it should be handled on a case-by-case basis. That way, those deserving, productive immigrants would be able to stay, while those that have criminal records (apart from traffic citations...) would be escorted to the door.
Mike Evans
11:50PM MAR 7TH 2014
Sorry.He should have thought about this before he Tried for the bar exam.And why would I want a immigrant practicing law in the US.Hell look what we have for a President.A Africian immirgrant.
Dean
12:38AM MAR 8TH 2014
Really Mike. You cannot come up with a better statement that one that has been PROVEN to be a lie? Turn off fox. Turn on NPR and join the real world. I pity you
Emma Brown
11:30PM MAR 7TH 2014
His parents should have got on line like the LEGAL immigrants! I don't think he should be allowed until he gets in line and gets in LEGALLY! He may be disappointed, but think how disappointed all the ones trying to ABIDE BY OUR LAWS and get in LEGALLY are when they see all those MILLIONS of SNEAK THIEFS coming in and getting all those benefits that should be THEIRS!!
Dean
1:01AM MAR 8TH 2014
Emma, you are grossly uninformed, havind drank deep of the fox mushroon tea. The "line" is to self deport, wait 10 years and then apply to re-enter. The kid is American, this is the only home he knows. Further, it is a waste of talent. Just like trying to talk to closeminded bigots is a waste of time.
A. Hock
2:07PM MAR 7TH 2014
Illegals should not have any rights except the right to go back where they came from. Other countries imprison or execute illegals while we give them welfare and housing while our vets and military go without. Send them home, Eisenhower did it.
Frank
4:09PM MAR 7TH 2014
Yes, yes . . . you must be right . . . . unless you're a 100% native American and can trace your heritage back at least 10,000 years, go home . . . as you're here illegally, without permission . . . .

Pathetic . . . .
Emma Brown
11:31PM MAR 7TH 2014
You are an idiot!
Frank
11:44AM MAR 8TH 2014
Ah, another thoughtful SSN fanclub clone member who only knows a few words . . . glad I can get on your nerves while making my point that we're all illegal immigrants to someone who was here before us . . . . . . which is why being anti-immigrant is just so . . .

Pathetic . . . .
Maggi Grissinger
12:57PM MAR 7TH 2014
Maybe just maybe, as this young man traversed through the American education system he would have become an American citizen and this would be a non issue!!!
VAfrmNJ
12:54PM MAR 7TH 2014
He and his family should have been deported years ago then he wouldn't have this problem. He is not entitled to anything due to the fact his parents and he were freeloaders on the system...and I'm certain that's how he got his education as well. Why isn't the law enforced? He should be leaving now that he's made himself known.
Raconteur
10:33AM MAR 7TH 2014
If it was a $10,000 fine and 1 year in prison for knowingly hiring an illegal alien, for each offense, and ENFORCED, the illegals would be leaving by the millions because there would no jobs for them.
Dean
11:14AM MAR 7TH 2014
Then IMMEDIATLY the price of fruits and veggies would triple. Most require that an actual human, not a machine, pick them. Undocumented workers have been the backbone of agriculture for decades. It is really hard, backbreaking work. Go try it and I bet you do not make it through the 10-12 hour day. I know, I have done it.
mike
5:56AM MAR 8TH 2014
A lil thing called a seasonal work permit...they've been issued for many decades...in Indiana they were called tomatoe pickers, and prices were never " tripled " as you suggest...They were documented workers , unlike today's illegals... Your ignorance is showing loud n clear...I assume it's ignorance because I despise the term stupid ...
VAfrmNJ
12:46PM MAR 7TH 2014
Dean, there is nothing wrong with an illegal obtaining a green card to work here in the USA; it applies to all foreign countries...there is something wrong when an illegal decides not to AND expect to become naturalized with education, medical and housing provided when we have plenty of legal immigrants and citizens scrapping by. I don't think the 11 million illegal immigrants that are in line to become citizens are simply picking fruit.
Dean
12:58PM MAR 7TH 2014
There is no program that would allow the undocumented worker, in the US to get a green card. If there was we would not be having this thread. The only current option, self deport, wait 10 years and apply for re-entry.
Fire
11:55AM MAR 7TH 2014
Pay the price for produce then, they can obtain a work permit before they enter the U.S.. If they are here illegally they need to be rounded up and sent back to where they came from. If they return illegally then they return to a state prison for 5 years. No excuses for these illegal lawbreakers. It was there choice to enter the U.S. illegally. Visa's, work permits, passports are all excepted at the Border. Anyone standing in the way of enforcing the immigration law should be charged and so convicted.
Dean
12:07PM MAR 7TH 2014
Fire. Until the last few years there was no farmworker visa. The current level for that program is about 5% of the needed workforce. The regulations and cost for the program almost outweighs the benefits. You have no clue about which you speak. Yes, people can enter the US, and without a work visa, cannot work. Most of the current number of work visas are used for tech and managment jobs.
Fire
12:22PM MAR 7TH 2014
So now we have 11 - 50 million illegal immigrants here in the U.S. and they are all picking fruit and veggies. Sorry Jose, if they are here illegal then they need to be arrested and booted out of our country.
Frank
12:58PM MAR 7TH 2014
Go ahead . . . try making your citizen's arrest of those "11 - 50 million illegal immigrants" . . . then, at least, we won't have to worry about you any more . . . .

Pathetic . . . .
Fire
1:43PM MAR 7TH 2014
Walk into Mexico or any South American country, Iran, North Korea, Russia, just to name a few without proper documentation and see what happens to you. Pathetic.....In fact over stay your visit in Canada. Highly advisable you obey their laws.
Frank
4:23PM MAR 7TH 2014
I'm not the one who lives in a fantasy land and declares they want to deport "11 - 50 million illegal immigrants" (nor earlier used a Hispanic name as an intended racial slur) . . . . that's just . . .

Pathetic . . . .
Emma Brown
11:44PM MAR 7TH 2014
Frank, YOU are...Pathetic...and living in Fantasyland..NO illegal alien, REGARDLESS of country should be allowed to stay here and leech off of American hard-working tax-payers! We have too many American leeches doing without adding the burden of those MILLIONS of Criminals (yes, they are law-breakers) to the list! At least our American leeches are her LEGALLY! And as another poster said, all those MILLIONS of ILLEGALS are not here picking fruits and veggies, a huge percent are leeching off of us! Deport them! Jail/fine the people who hire them!
Frank
6:19PM MAR 8TH 2014
Then go home . . . because you and your ancestors were illegal immigrants here . . . . and thank you for your attitude and hysteria . . . . I'm sure that will convince many young and minority voters that the GOP's the home for them . . . . . . . you must make Allison Nielsen and Nancy Smith so proud that you're one of them, as your lack of an intelligent argument makes abundantly clear . . . . while your shrill, laughable demonization is simply . . . .

Pathetic
Skip Ward
9:08AM MAR 7TH 2014
It's a shame this young man didn't pursue citizenship somewhere along the line.
The Fla. legislature needs to be real careful how a change to our State Laws is worded....!!..
VAfrmNJ
12:51PM MAR 7TH 2014
I don't think he should be allowed to practice law in this country period because I'm certain his education was funded by LEGAL taxpayers. If his family were so pro America, they should have gone through the proper channels. As it is, I'm sick and tired of finding out some illegal, who he and his entire family have not paid one cent in taxes supporting this country, whereas they received a free education for their children including medical and housing, now expects this country to provide him employment. Is that fair for the countless legal immigrants and citizens who are scrapping by to achieve an education? NO!
Dean
10:29AM MAR 7TH 2014
Skip, you show how poorly informed people are about this subject. Bet you get most of your information from right wing sources like Fox. There is no program or policy that would allow this young man to become a citizen short of leaving the US, waiting 10 years and applying to re-enter. That is why they are called "Dreamers", they dream of becoming citizens of the only home they know. We visit the sins of the parents on the children, then blame everybody but ourselves. Bet everyone of you like the cheap veggies and fruit, much of it picked by hardworking "illegals", and it is really hard work, try it for a day. We have enforced a double standard. Keeping "Them" in the shadows while enjoying the fruits of "Their" labor, all while complaining of their presence, and dreading their absence. Shame
Emma Brown
11:54PM MAR 7TH 2014
Dean, I would be willing to bet that YOU get your information from idiot Left-wing programs like MSNBC. If it takes leaving and coming back at a later date to become a LEGAL citizen, then so be it! And as far as "cheap" fruits and veggies go, I don't know where you buy yours! None of it is "cheap" where I live! If we got rid of all the ILLEGALS, and put all the people who draw welfare checks and food stamps to work in these types of jobs, they would make more money at those jobs than on welfare, and that would solve both problems...
Emma Brown
11:54PM MAR 7TH 2014
Dean, I would be willing to bet that YOU get your information from idiot Left-wing programs like MSNBC. If it takes leaving and coming back at a later date to become a LEGAL citizen, then so be it! And as far as "cheap" fruits and veggies go, I don't know where you buy yours! None of it is "cheap" where I live! If we got rid of all the ILLEGALS, and put all the people who draw welfare checks and food stamps to work in these types of jobs, they would make more money at those jobs than on welfare, and that would solve both problems...
Dean
12:45AM MAR 8TH 2014
OK Emma. Go spend a day as a picker. You have noclue. Bet you get your info from fox. Me? NPR, the only true fair and balanced network. Take away the undocumented workers and pay 2-3X more for every crop that requires a human worker.
Fire
12:04PM MAR 7TH 2014
How many people dream of winning the lottery and don't. That doesn't mean they didn't get there dream so anything goes. We have laws that need to be enforced and immigration is on the top of the list. Picking fruit and veggies is not one of those jobs that are on the top of the list so the pay scale should be there for workers to except these jobs. Who would not want to pick for $20-$30 per hour, that's right these jobs would be filled overnight. It's the greedy farmers fault. Obey the law and enter the U.S. legally and then you can foe-fill your dream as you and others put it. Be a law breaking outlaw and sooner or later your gonna pay the price. Welcome to America, without Shame.
Dean
12:22PM MAR 7TH 2014
You do realize the majority of Farmers are repuublicans, just like you. It is the fault of the market, not the farmers. How many people would be willing to pay $6 for a bell pepper or tomato? Bet you would pitch a fit! Have you ever tried farmwork? It is hard, backbreaking work. From dawn to dusk, bent over, the only time you stand up is when moving a heavy ben or bag to the collection point. I have done it and was amazed by the regular workers ability. And I was in construction, which as hard as it is, was a walk in the park compared to being a picker. Other options have been tried, and failed. The average American cannot do the job. Will not do the job. No matter the salary. Please learn a bit more about it before passing judgement. Thanx
Fire
12:39PM MAR 7TH 2014
Dean, how dare you label me in any political party. How dare you tell me what I do or do not know. You know nothing about me. Yes working the fields is hard work. Again if the pay was fit for the job their are plenty of legal citizens willing to fill these jobs. What about the great depression, you would have others think it was only illegal immigrants picking fruit and veggies then. I'm in my sixties and was born and raised in California so don't tell me what I know and don't know about agriculture. I have always supported the blue collar worker because I have always been one my self. When the going gets tuff the tuff get going. Being here in the U.S. illegally is not a free pass to avoid our laws. Not all illegals are in the fields picking fruit and veggies. Most illegals are here working good jobs and leaving American workers without jobs. So pass your B.S. somewhere else. You sound like your one of those illegals, please report to the Border patrol.
Dean
12:51PM MAR 7TH 2014
OK, so I deserved the comeback. I apologize for having mis-labeled you, although your insulting me solved nothing. AND. You are incorrect about the majority of "illegals". Most work at low wage jobs beyond the fields. They cook your meals and bus and wash your dirty dishes at your favorite restaurant. They wash the linens and clean the rooms at the local motels. And yea, since I lost work to undocumented workers, they build houses. All fields that pay cash or do not look close at documents. It is not a perfect world, but your solution, IS JUST WRONG!
Fire
1:45PM MAR 7TH 2014
Violating our laws IS JUST WRONG.
Dean
2:27PM MAR 7TH 2014
Haha! Great response. Fact: It would be impossible to "send" them all home. Many now have children that are US Citizens, who cannot be deported. Stop them all from working? Sure, then fill the jails with those who steal to feed themselves and their children. Laws are manmade and are changed all the time. It is time to take a good hard look at the whole situation and resolve it. The status quo does not work. The partisan political position does not work. RHETORIC solves nothing! How about ideas that actually solve the problem? Thanx
Fire
3:26PM MAR 7TH 2014
Walk into Mexico or any South American country, Iran, North Korea, Russia, just to name a few without proper documentation and see what happens to you. Pathetic.....In fact over stay your visit in Canada. Highly advisable you obey their laws.
Frank
3:57PM MAR 7TH 2014
Repeat yourself much . . .

Pathetic . . . .
Emma Brown
11:59PM MAR 7TH 2014
Frank you repeat YOURSELF moe than anyone here! How any times have you said ...Pathetic??? Quite a few, it seems..
Frank
6:18PM MAR 8TH 2014
"moe" "any"? . . . . it seems it takes quite a lot to get thru to the intellectually bigoted . . . once again, just . . . .

Pathetic . . . .
dixie walsh
8:40AM MAR 7TH 2014
I am confused or perhaps naive. If this young man studied law, then surely he knew that illegal aliens could not be accepted into the Florida Bar. If he has had an illegal status all these year, why has he not made an attempt to become a legal citizen before completing law school? Does it require deportation and re-entry? If so, perhaps that is the part of immigration that should be reviewed, not overlooking the fact that "illegal" means "against the law".
Fire
12:14PM MAR 7TH 2014
Quit whining, he knew darn well he was in the U.S. illegally and now cries poor poor have pity on me like the lawbreakers do. Check out the convicted in prisons, they know how to cry how they didn't do it. It's the lawbreakers golden rule on how to whine and act like they deserve to get what they want just like they did when they were babies. No proper documentation is a free kick you out of the U.S. card enforced now so time for the handcuffs and leg chains, your out of this country now. If you get caught again in the U.S. without proper Documentation 1st offense 5 years hard free labor in State Prison.
peggy
8:37AM MAR 7TH 2014
he is what he is.................ILLEGAL..............PERIOD!!!!!
mobilebay
8:26AM MAR 7TH 2014
It's absolutely unthinkable how anyone would condone allowing an illegal alien to enter the law profession or any other line of work. This man's parents, staying in our nation illegally, made him illegal too. The first mistake was our government not enforcing our immigration laws and sending all illegals home. We either obey the laws of the land or wind up with complete anarchy. We are on a dangerous slide to third world status unless we elect people who obey our country's immigration laws.
Skip Ward
9:04AM MAR 7TH 2014
Amen..

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