The Florida Supreme Court reluctantly issued an opinion that prohibited illegal aliens who graduated from law school admittance to the Florida bar. Jose Manuel Godinez-Samperio, a citizen of Mexico, arrived in the U.S. illegally with his parents when he was nine years old. He grew up in America, in Tampa, Florida. Mr. Godinez-Samperio excelled scholastically, graduated from the Florida State University Law School and passed the bar. Additionally, he benefited from President Obama’s Executive Order barring U.S. officials from deporting illegal aliens brought to the U.S. as children. As noted in the Court’s opinion, President Obama’s Executive order, entitled Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, states, ‘Deferred action is a discretionary determination to defer removal action of an individual as an act of prosecutorial discretion. Deferred action does not provide an individual with lawful status.”
The Court also noted in its opinion that the U.S. Department of Justice argued against granting illegal aliens admittance to the Florida Bar, stating: ‘...federal statutes prohibit this Court from issuing a law license to an unlawfully present alien, citing 8 U.S.C. § 1621. The Department of Justice also cites the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996. This federal law prohibits specified categories of aliens from obtaining certain state public benefits….Simply stated, current federal law prohibits this Court from issuing a license to practice law to an unlawful or unauthorized immigrant.’ The Court reasoned that since a license to practice is state issued and funded by appropriations, in effect a public benefit, the issuance of the license in this case would violate federal law.
Counsel for Mr. Godinez-Samperio opined that ‘a State may provide that an alien who is not lawfully present in the United States is eligible for any State or local public benefit for which such alien would otherwise be ineligible.’ The Court noted that the state may only do so ‘through the enactment of a State law after August 22, 1996, which affirmatively provides for such eligibility.’ The Court noted that the Florida Legislature must pass a law facilitating the admittance of Mr. Godinez-Samperio and others illegally present in the U.S. admittance to the Florida Bar.
Two questions remain. First, will the Florida Legislature sanction people living in the U.S. in violation of federal law the privilege of advising Florida residents in matters of law? Second, will Governor Rick Scott, facing a tough reelection bid, sign the legislation into law?