Monday, July 7, 2014

How is illegal, legal?

"I'm going to be shocked if we don't get immediate approval by the court.  I hope that I'm not being too optimistic, but I think it is very likely to come through," stated Talbot D'Alemberte.

The Florida Board of Bar Examiners has recommended that the state Supreme Court admit Jose Manuel Godinez-Samperio, of Largo, to the Florida Bar on July 1 2014.  This follows a long legal battle which ended with Gov Rick Scott signing into law, bill HB755.  This bill allows "Dreamers", undocumented children who had been brought to this country, to be eligible for The Bar.  The bill is in response to his petition to the Florida State Supreme Court being turned down previously.  Basically.......... the bill that Scott signed is one of many that is aimed at a single individual or a handful that meet the criteria.

Godinez-Samperio came to the US with his parents when he was nine years old and when their tourist visas expired, they all stayed.  At that point, they were all here illegally,  He has remained in the US, was the class valedictorian of his Florida high school, became an Eagle Scout, graduated from Florida State University College of Law and passed the state bar exam.  He managed to sit for the state bar exam by receiving a waiver from having to show his immigration status in 2011 and he passed the exam on his first try.

Federal law requires that children receive an education in the US, whether they are here legally or not.  Most undocumented students who go on to college, receive help through scholarships that do not require them to be legal residents of the US.  Godinez-Samperio certainly excelled while he was in the US but when he received a waiver to sit for the state bar exam, the can of worms only got larger.  He has known for years that he is in the US illegally and despite his dreams of practicing law, he should have also realized that he was heading for a serious roadblock to that dream.

Since Dec 2012, Godinez-Samperio has been living here lawfully because he received "deferred status" under the DACA program.  He now has a social security card, Florida drivers license, work permit and is working as a law graduate at Gulf Coast Legal Services in Clearwater FL.  His deferred status does not mean that he is on the path to becoming a legal citizen, it only means that he has had any review of his status delayed by two years.  He is also eligible to reapply to renew this status when the original deferral expires.  Gov Rick Scott has in effect, signed off on a bill that narrowly allows someone who is not a citizen of the US and has broken immigration law for years, to practice law now.

He is not the only young man seeking to practice law in the US.  Sergio Garcia came to the US as a teenager and worked picking almonds with his father.  He put himself through college and Cal Northern School of Law by working odd jobs.  He has passed the California Bar exam on his first try as well.

He evidently applied in the mid 1990's for legal residency and has been put on a waiting list for final approval which may take as much as another 10 years.  As a result of this........ he too is in the US illegally.  California had also passed a law that would make Garcia eligible to be admitted to the bar there after the federal courts left the decision with individual states.  Garcia is too old to apply for the deferment offered by DACA.

Cesar Vargas is also trying to get admitted to the bar but in New York State.  He came to the US illegally as a young child and graduated from CUNY School of Law.  He also passed that state's bar exam on the first try but despite his review of being a "stellar candidate", New York has blocked his admittance to the bar due to his immigration status.  He has received a work permit through DACA and it's deferral of his case but that leaves him in the same status as Godinez-Samperio, legal for two years until they have to reapply.

"This is trying to steal a base.  In other words, they're trying to skip over the debate over whether people in his situation should get legalized.  It's one more way of trying to create a de facto legalization,"  stated Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies.

I do believe that they are trying to steal a base in regards to their legal status in the US.  If they are indeed allowed to practice law, it could be viewed as another reason to not deport them.... as in, they have done so well here, we have to make an exception for them.  The other fact of them being so public in stressing what their immigration status is a;most a dare to the US to deport them.  The flip side would be an even larger debate and court battle to deport them.  For the moment, it seems that they have bought themselves time to escape the legal system......... one that they now believe they deserve to work in.

As much as these young men have excelled and seem to exemplify the American Dream....... they are still here illegally.  They don't deserve to move to the head of the class because of that either, especially in the legal field.  There have been cases of people who have committed terrible crimes and hid from the law for decades.  The fact that they may have led exemplary lives afterwards has not caused people to push for them not to pay the price for their previous crimes.

In 1971, John List murdered his wife, mother and three children.  He disappeared for 18 years until his arrest.  In those 18 years, he had assumed a new identity, remarried and had been a contributing member of society working as an accountant again.  I don't believe that anyone would have said that he should not be prosecuted to the letter of the law since he had been so nice after the murders.

Unfortunately, all three of these young men entered the country illegally and as such, I find it hard to believe there are those who believe they should be practicing law.  I am not against immigrants....... my own grandparents did just that, legally through Ellis Island.  America is built on immigration but there are rules to follow.  Unfortunately, these men as well as some 11 million, are not here legally and shouldn't receive special treatment just because they have done so well with their lives.

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