An appeals court in New York [official website] on Wednesday granted a law license [opinion] to an immigrant who was brought to the US illegally as a child. Cesar Vargas was brought to the US from Mexico by his mother when he was 5 years old. He attended college and law school in New York City and passed the bar exam. Vargas is eligible to work in the US under the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that gives work status and defers deportation action for some immigrants. The court determined that it had “no legal impediment or rational basis for withholding the privilege of practicing law in the state of New York from undocumented immigrants who have been granted DACA relief.” Vargas, and many other activists who push for changes to immigration laws, view this decision as a major advance in immigrants’ rights.
US immigration law [JURIST backgrounder] continues to be a controversial issue, especially in dealing with undocumented immigrants. In January 2014 the California Supreme Court granted a law license [JURIST report] to Sergio Garcia, who came to the country from Mexico as a teenager. That ruling came after California passed a law allowing immigrants in the country without legal documentation to get a law license. A couple of months later, Florida’s state Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] that Tampa Immigrant Jose Godinez-Samperio, and other immigrants in the country illegally, could not be given law licenses to practice in the state. Also in 2014 a New Jersey governor signed [JURIST report] a bill allowing undocumented immigrants to claim in-state tuition. In November 2013 the mayor of Washington, DC, signed [JURIST report] a bill allowing driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants. In April 2013 Oregon’s governor signed a bill [JURIST report] allowing undocumented immigrants to attend public universities at the same tuition rate as in-state residents. In March of that year a judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of Georgia permanently blocked [JURIST report] a key provision in Georgia’s immigration law that criminalized knowingly transporting or harboring an undocumented immigrant during the course of any other crime.