Undocumented Immigrant Can be Lawyer, Florida Bar Says

The Florida Board of Bar Examiners says that an undocumented immigrant born in Mexico appears to qualify for a law license, but it still wants an advisory opinion from the state Supreme Court before making a final decision.

The board initially denied Jose Godinez-Samperio's admission to the bar but asked the justices to decide whether being an illegal immigrant disqualifies applicants. The new findings submitted to the Supreme Court on Monday are the result of a request by Godinez-Samperio to consider new information related to his character and fitness before the Supreme Court makes its decision.

Former Florida State University President Talbot "Sandy" D'Alemberte, now teaching law at the school, is representing his former student.

"I hope the bar examiners would just go ahead and approve his admission to the bar and just be done," D'Alemberte said Tuesday.

D'Alemberte, also a former American Bar Association president, said the board's findings that Godinez-Samperio had no moral character or fitness issues that would prevent his admission was more good news that could help the state Supreme Court rule in his favor. He said the justices could dismiss the board's request for an opinion.

I hope the bar examiners would just go ahead and approve his admission to the bar and just be done.

— Former Florida State University President Talbot "Sandy" D'Alemberte

President Barack Obama announced in June that his administration will let illegal immigrants remain in the United States if they are no older than 30, arrived as children, have no criminal history and graduated from high school or served in the military.

D'Alemberte filed a motion with the justices last month arguing that makes Godinez-Samperio eligible for legal immigration status and work authorization.

"No grounds remain for denying or further delaying his admission to the Florida Bar," D'Alemberte wrote.

The board also acknowledged, in a separate filing, that the Obama administration's new policy is relevant to Godinez-Samperio's case, but contended D'Alemberte violated a court rule by including argument in his motion for an order directing the board to conclude its investigation. The board says that request now is moot because of the new findings it has filed.

Godinez-Samperio's parents brought him to the United States from Mexico on a visitor's visa when he was 9. They overstayed their visas and never returned to Mexico. He grew up in rural Hillsborough County where his father, a veterinarian in Mexico, milked cows on a dairy farm, and his mother, a dentist, worked at a factory that made sliding glass doors.

Godinez-Samperio, 25, graduated from New College, earned a law degree from Florida State and passed the bar exam.

Based on reporting by the Associated Press.

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