TALLAHASSEE – An undocumented immigrant who passed the Florida Bar exam but was denied the ability to practice law by examiners says an Obama administration change to U.S. immigration policy means he should be given his lawyer license.
In April, José Godínez-Samperio filed a legal challenge after he was denied the license in a first of its kind case at the Florida’s Supreme Court. He now hopes President Obama's new policy will offer a way for him to live out his law dreams.
Obama announced last month that undocumented immigrants no older than 30 who arrived as children, have no criminal history, and have high school degrees or military service could stay and work in this country.
In a motion filed Thursday, Godínez-Samperio told the state Supreme Court that the administration's order makes him eligible for legal immigration status and work authorization in the U.S.
"The significance of this action for (Godínez-Samperio) and for the issues before this Court cannot be overstated," says the motion filed in Tallahassee by Godínez-Samperio's attorney, Talbot D'Alemberte. "No grounds remain for denying or further delaying his admission to the Florida Bar."
The motion asks the court to order the Florida Board of Bar Examiners to either conclude its investigation into Godínez-Samperio's application or admit him.
Godínez-Samperio's parents brought him to the U.S. from Mexico on a visitor's visa when he was 9. His parents overstayed their visas and never returned to Mexico. He grew up in rural Hillsborough County. His father, a veterinarian in Mexico, milked cows on a dairy farm. His mother, a dentist, worked at a factory that made sliding glass doors.
“One day, about six months later, I was watching Barney and my visa expired. Of course, I didn’t know it then, as I was still 10 years old, and eventually I went through school just like any other kid,” Godinez-Samperio told WJHG Channel 7.
Godínez-Samperio, 25, graduated from Florida's New College, earned a law degree from Florida State and passed the bar exam. The Florida Board of Bar Examiners, though, declined to admit him, instead asking the justices for an advisory opinion on whether illegal immigrants can be licensed as lawyers.
Earlier this year, seven U.S. representatives and Puerto Rico's nonvoting resident commissioner joined four former American Bar Association presidents in urging the state Supreme Court to grant Godínez-Samperio a law license.
No one has filed paperwork opposing Godínez-Samperio's admission to the bar, and he says he just wants "to contribute."
The aspiring lawyer says he will work as an activist and plans to practice immigration law if allowed to be a lawyer.
Fox News Latino contributed to this report.