Much like his fellow law graduates Jose Godinez-Samperio, 25, is attempting to pass the Florida Bar after graduating from the Florida State University College of Law. The difference is that Jose is currently in the United States illegally.
Jose and his parents entered the United States on a tourist visa 16-years-ago and when that visa expired they simply never left. During his time in the United States Jose would go on to become the valedictorian of his high school class and receive high enough marks in college to enter and eventually graduate from law school.
Godinez-Samperio is now pleading with the Florida Board of Bar Examiners to grant him permission to take the test, going so far as to ask the state Supreme Court to determine if they can accept a lawyer who is illegally in the country. The case has already been flagged as “high profile” by the Supreme court which means Jose could get his day in court before the bar exam.
In the meantime there are plenty of opponents fighting against Jose, lawyers and law advocates who point out out that he can’t legally work in the United States while others call his “contempt for American law” a hinderance on his ability to practice such law ethically. It should be noted that Jose has broken no laws being in the country illegally as it is considered a civil infarction and not a crime as is typically believed. In any case Jose hasn’t tried to hide his illegal status in the United States, in fact he disclosed that status on both his college and law school application and his law school essay was titled “The Consequences of my Criminal Childhood.”
In any case Jose’s case is likely to be closely followed as similar cases are currently being considered in California and New York. Similar applications are pending for students in California and New York.
Jose’s former law professor, Sandy D’Alemberte, believes her student should be able to take the bar exam:
“It is unfair to deny him the credentials he’s earned,” while she notes that there is nothing in the “Rules of the Supreme Court Relating to Admissions to the Florida Bar” that requires proof of citizenship.”
Even if Jose Godinez-Samperio does pass the Florida bar exam he won’t be able to legally practice in the United States because he doesn’t have the right to work.
In the meantime a successful illegal immigrant could lead Jose into becoming the face of the Development, Relief, and Education of Alien Minors (DREAM) Act which various members of Congress are attempting to pass. DREAM would provide a path to citizenship for undocumented children who are raised in the United States.
At this time its impossible to tell which way the Florida Supreme Court will rule, here’s to hoping Jose’s honesty about his illegal immigrant status doesn’t come back to bite him.