Undocumented immigrants can practice law in Florida


LEGAL BEAGLE: Jose Godinez-Samperio of Largo, who came to the U.S. as a child and stayed in the country illegally, can become a member of the Florida Bar Association.

By Marianela Toledo | Florida Watchdog

MIAMI — Undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and succeeded academically rejoice. You can become a lawyer in good standing in the state of Florida.

Gov. Rick Scott on Monday signed into law a bill proposed by state Rep. Gregory Steube, R Sarasota, allowing undocumented immigrants to receive a law license as long as certain conditions are met.

The law is a victory for Jose Godinez-Samperio, who lives in Largo, and other young people like him who are in the country illegally.

Godinez-Samperio’s family left Mexico when he was 9 and stayed long after their visas expired.

Godinez-Samperio was his high school’s valedictorian and graduated with honors from law school at Florida State University. He pass the state bar exam in 2011, but his illegal status prohibited him for getting his professional license.

Godinez-Samperio had a work permit, driver’s license and Social Security number thanks to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program approved by Obama in 2012.

During the recent Senate session to decide whether Godinez-Samperio should be admitted to the bar, a few members opposed the idea. State Sen. Kelly Stargel, R- Lakeland, told the Senate the law could lead to terrorists becoming officers of the court.

“We can have people coming to this country who maybe prepare themselves, who look like they’re great citizens and act like great citizens and do all those things as a child but do not have good intentions, and now we are going to give them the opportunity to practice law in our country,” she said.

Florida is the not only state where the bar association challenged federal law to give professional licenses to an undocumented graduate. In California, the court ruled Sergio Garcia, an undocumented immigrant who came to the U.S. as a child, was entitled to a professional license to practice law.

Contact Marianela Toledo at Marianela.Toledo@FloridaWatchdog.org or on Twitter @mtoledoreporter.