The Florida Supreme Court has ruled that an undocumented law school graduate cannot practice because of his illegal status.
The court’s decision about Jose Godinez-Samperio, a 26-year-old who came from Mexico as a child, was based on a federal law that prohibits people who are unlawfully in the country from obtaining professional licenses. The justices said state law can override the federal ban, but Florida has taken no action to do so.
“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,” justices wrote, according to The Tampa Bay Times.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder weighed in previously on the Florida case, saying that federal law precluded Godinez-Samperio from practicing in the Sunshine State.
In a case with similar circumstances, the California Legislature changed its laws to allow Sergio Garcia to practice law in that state.
“I’m feeling very disappointed. But more than anything, I’m feeling outraged at Congress, that they have failed to take action on immigration reform,” Godinez-Samperio said, according to the Times. “And actually, I’m feeling outraged at the president as well. It’s time for Congress to act, it’s time for Obama to act and it’s time for the Legislature to act.”'
Proponents of strict immigration enforcement have opposed allowing undocumented immigrants the right to practice law. They say that people who've broken laws should not be allowed to practice law here.
Godinez-Samperio is in the group that has become known as “Dreamers,” undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as minors by their parents. In his case, he came on a tourist visa with his parents, and the family fell out of status after overstaying.
He qualified for a 2012 initiative known as DACA or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a status that has enabled him to get a Social Security number, work permit and Florida driver’s license.
Godinez-Samperio was a standout in his youth, becoming an Eagle Scout and then valedictorian of his high school in Tampa. At Florida State University law school, he graduated with honors, and passed the bar exam, according to the Times.
Godinez-Samperino’s attorney, Talbot D’Alemberte, is now focused on pressing the Florida legislative leaders on Thursday to follow in California’s footsteps.
The Times said that the attorney is zeroing in on House Speaker Will Weatherford, who has supported in-state tuition for children of undocumented immigrants, arguing that noncitizens who were brought to the United States should not be penalized for the actions of adults.
Of the Florida State Supreme Court ruling, Weatherford’s spokesman Ryan Duffy said: “We’re reviewing the decision.”
In New York, Cesar Vargas, an undocumented law graduate, has a case pending in which he seeks to be able to practice in the state.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.