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House sets stage for admitting undocumented immigrant to Bar

by John Kennedy | May 1st, 2014

Jose Godinez-Sampiero outside House chambers.

The state House approved a narrowly drawn measure Thursday that would allow the Florida Supreme Court to admit a Tampa man as a lawyer even though he remains an undocumented immigrant after coming to the state illegally as a child.

The provision was attached as an amendment to an otherwise non-controversial family law bill (CS/HB 755) and still must win approval from the Senate before the Legislature’s scheduled Friday adjournment.

But Jose Godinez-Samperio said he expects lawmakers will let him reach his career goal of becoming an immigration lawyer. The House move also comes on a day when the Florida Senate will consider a bill granting in-state tuition to children of undocumented immigrants.

“The Florida Legislature is clearly moving in the right direction, recognizing the importance of immigrants in this state,” said Godinez-Sampiero, who watched the vote from the House gallery. “I believe we are number four in the nation for immigrants…we’re great contributors to the economy. And the Florida Legislature is recognizing that.”

The House amendment is tailored to help Godinez-Sampiero. It would affect only someone who has lived in the U.S. for at least 10 years, came to the country as a child, is authorized to work and has been issued a Social Security number.

For males, the potential Bar member also would have had to signed up for Selective Service, which Godinez-Sampiero has done.

Godinez-Sampiero was brought to the U.S. at age 9 by his Mexican parents. He became an Eagle Scout and the valedictorian of his high school class, going on to graduate from Florida State University College of Law in 2011 and passing the Florida Bar exam, including its moral character test.

But the Florida Supreme Court this year rejected his request to join the state Bar, citing a 1996 federal statute that says granting certain state licenses is a taxpayer-funded activity and undocumented immigrants are ineligible to receive such “public benefits.”

However, the justices added that state legislators could write a new law that would override the federal ban, as California has done. In a concurring opinion, Justice Jorge Labarga, a former Palm Beach County circuit judge whose family emigrated from Cuba when he was a child and settled in Pahokee, prodded lawmakers to act.

“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,” Labarga wrote.

9 Responses to “House sets stage for admitting undocumented immigrant to Bar”

  1. Educator Says:

    God Bless President Obama and the CHANGED USA!

  2. Guess What 2 Says:

    This country is going to poop.

  3. Sue Says:

    It’s a shame that Jose Godinez-Samperio will not be required to become a legal U.S. citizen prior to being admitted to the Florida Bar. He certainly had plenty of time.

    The Florida legislature is saying, “Sure, go ahead and violate U.S. and Florida laws prior to admission to the Florida Bar even though a U.S. citizen MUST be in compliance with laws and the U.S. and Florida Constitution.

    This is a gross disparity and must NOT be accepted or approved. If one wants U.S. citizen benefits, then one should and must become a U.S. citizen. Period.

  4. Joe Says:

    So he’s been here since 9 years of age, has his own SS number, paid taxes, attended college in the US, passed the bar and been a productive member of society. Makes you wonder how the term “undocumented immigrant” can be assigned to him with all that documentation on file. I agree with Sue but this man is certainly one in a million and would be a great advocate for people facing deportation. As a side note I find it laughable that the bar actually has a “moral character test”. Makes you wonder how moral character can be assessed by a written exam.

  5. A Fop & a Dandy Says:

    Here here Joe! good show, good show indeed!

  6. Carolina Says:

    Sue, he can’t just apply for U.S. citizenship under current law. It’s not that easy.

    Because he is here illegally, he’d have to go back to Mexico, wait 10 years, reapply, and get in line. In the meantime, he has lived here most of his life, is likely English-dominant, and knows only the U.S. as his home. And he was brought here as a child, when he didn’t have a choice.

    I’d also point out that contrary to what you seem to believe, one does not have to be a U.S. citizen to practice law in Florida (or any other state). Foreign nationals who are legal residents or have some sort of permission to work here practice law in the U.S.

  7. Hype and Chains Says:

    As your president, I want to be clear and transparent! There is not a smidgen of corruption in my administration! I have not lied to the people! I do have an economic plan! I am not a socialist! Benghazi is all about a video! The IRS did not target conservative groups! I know nothing about Fast and Furious! Al Qaeda is on the run! The economy is much better today!

    Thank you and god bless the Black Panther Party!

  8. Carol Says:

    It seems that the only right my American citizenship offers me today is the right to pay taxes to support illegal aliens. There is no longer any benefit to being an American citizen. Illegal aliens are much better off. With the latest law passed that gives illegal aliens in-State college tuition, rather than pay over $20,000 per year, illegal aliens will now pay over $6,000 if they take a full course load (which they won’t). If an American child from any other State wishes to attend a Florida college or university, it will cost that child over $20,000. Something very wrong with this picture.

  9. mik Says:

    The guy is smart enough to become a lawyer but not smart enough to submit a few applications to attain legal status in the US….

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