DACA Recipient Granted New York Law License

Cesar Vargas
AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

NEW YORK (AP) — An appeals court in New York on Wednesday announced its decision granting a law license to an immigrant who was brought to the United States illegally when he was a child.

Cesar Vargas’ mother brought him to the United States from Mexico when he was 5. He went to college and law school in New York City and passed the bar. A court committee recommended against his licensing but said the court should decide.

Vargas, an activist who pushes for changes to immigration laws, is eligible to work in the United States under the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that gives work status and defers deportation action for some immigrants.

In its decision, the court said it found “no legal impediment or rational basis for withholding the privilege of practicing law in the state of New York from undocumented immigrants who have been granted DACA relief.”

Messages sent by email and social media to Vargas weren’t answered. On his Twitter feed, he said, “NY, my home, OFFICIALLY says I can be a licensed lawyer!”

Jose Perez, deputy general counsel at LatinoJustice PRLDEF who represented Vargas, said the decision “pushes the door wide open for other states.” Perez called the decision a “major advance in immigrants’ rights.”

New York isn’t the first state to grapple with the issue. In January 2014, the California Supreme Court decided in favor of a license for Sergio Garcia, who came to the country from Mexico as a teenager. That ruling came after California passed a law allowing immigrants in the country without legal documentation to get a law license.

A couple of months later, Florida’s state Supreme Court ruled immigrants in the country illegally can’t be given law licenses. The judges said state legislators hadn’t taken any legislative action at the time to allow it to happen. The case revolved around a man, Jose Godinez-Samperio, who had come from Mexico when he was 9.


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