In voting to allow Jose Godinez-Samperio to qualify as a lawyer, the Florida Senate has taken a stand against the nation's irrational and shortsighted immigration policies. Now the House needs to agree this week, and Gov. Rick Scott needs to sign this fix into law. The Senate should also find a way to be as farsighted and let Florida high school graduates brought here illegally by their parents years ago to qualify for in-state tuition at state colleges and universities.
Godinez-Samperio, 27, is a prime example of how immigration policies can ultimately undermine the country's own interests. Floridians already have invested heavily in Godinez-Samperio, who arrived here at age 9 when his parents illegally immigrated from Mexico. The Eagle Scout and high school valedictorian attended public schools and universities, received a law degree from Florida State University and passed the Florida Bar exam. He is here legally, obtained a federal tax ID and has a Social Security card. He falls under President Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program, which enables younger undocumented immigrants to remain here legally for a two-year period that can be renewed. But as a paralegal in Clearwater, he contributes far less to the tax base and the legal profession than he could as an attorney.
A sympathetic Florida Supreme Court concluded it could not help, citing federal law that bars undocumented immigrants from obtaining such "public benefits" as a professional license unless the state carves out an exemption. That's what California did earlier this year and what Florida would do under an amendment to HB 755, which the Senate passed Friday and sent to the House.
The House, under Speaker Will Weatherford, has already shown leadership by voting to let children who are raised in Florida but were brought here illegally by their parents years ago to qualify for in-state tuition at public colleges and universities. The Senate, which has so far refused to hear that proposal, should reconsider for the same reasons the chamber embraced the fix for Godinez-Samperio. It makes no sense to thwart the talent of Florida's ambitious young immigrants who, against all odds, have managed to excel and contribute to our communities.