Saturday, January 20, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Legislature's job: correct law license unfairness

It is now up to the Florida Legislature to correct a serious injustice and allow Jose Godinez-Samperio the license to practice law that he has earned. The Florida Supreme Court ruled unanimously Thursday that its hands are tied by federal law and that it cannot clear the way for undocumented immigrants to receive law licenses. The court said only state legislators can do that, so they should promptly address this fundamental unfairness.

Godinez-Samperio is a shining example of the opportunities in Florida for young people who work hard and contribute to our communities. He came here from Mexico with his parents when he was 9 years old, and his parents overstayed their visitors' visas to escape the poverty in their home country. He is an Eagle Scout who graduated as the valedictorian at Armwood High School in Seffner. He obtained an undergraduate degree from New College and a law degree from Florida State University. He has passed the Florida Bar exam and cleared his character and fitness review. He has a Social Security number, and he has a permit to work legally as a paralegal at Gulf Coast Legal Services in Clearwater.

Yet Godinez-Samperio cannot get his Florida Bar license to practice law because of federal law dealing with undocumented immigrants, the Supreme Court ruled. It said federal statutes clearly bar undocumented immigrants from obtaining "public benefits" such as professional licenses and that only the state Legislature can make an exception. Never mind that Godinez-Samperio is working legally now. Never mind that Florida taxpayers already have made a good investment by contributing significantly to his public education. Never mind that he falls within President Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which enables younger undocumented immigrants brought to the United States by their parents to be here legally for a two-year period that can be renewed.

Godinez-Samperio has played by the rules, and he has not lied about his status or his background. He has excelled at every level, and he has contributed to the Tampa Bay community. He can live here legally. He can work here legally. He can take the Florida Bar exam and pass it. He just can't work as a lawyer.

Talbot "Sandy" D'Alemberte, a former American Bar Association president, state legislator and Florida State University president, represented Godinez-Samperio and argued that the state Supreme Court could advise the Florida Bar to approve the law license. Now the court has concluded it's the Legislature's responsibility to create that path, although Justice Jorge Labarga wrote in a concurring opinion that Godinez-Samperio "is the type of exemplary individual the Florida Bar should strive to add to its membership." Labarga, who was brought here from Cuba as a child by his parents, even noted their similar life trajectories and that "both of us were driven by the opportunities this great nation offered to realize the American dream.'' Yet they are treated differently because of timing and circumstance.

Faced with an identical situation, California state lawmakers passed legislation last year that explicitly grants undocumented immigrants eligibility for a law license. The California Supreme Court relied on that new state law to give Sergio Garcia a law license. Now the Florida Legislature should pass similar legislation to let Godinez-Samperio and others in his predicament obtain law licenses in this state. Florida's strength is its rich mix of residents who left their birthplaces to work hard and seek better lives here. It would be a stain on this state to deny Godinez-Samperio an opportunity to realize his dream.

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Editorial: Criminal charges should finally wake up FSU fraternities to hazing’s dangers

Editorial: Criminal charges should finally wake up FSU fraternities to hazing’s dangers

The death last fall of a 20-year-old Florida State University fraternity pledge revealed pervasive dangerous behavior within the school’s Greek system. Andrew Coffey, a Pi Kappa Phi pledge, died from alcohol poisoning after an off-campus party, and a...
Published: 01/19/18

Editorial: Confronting racial distrust in St. Petersburg, one conversation at a time

The St. Petersburg Police Department’s heavy presence in Midtown on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the community animosity it stirred have raised a familiar, troubling question: Can St. Petersburg’s racial divisions ever be reconciled?That big ideal ...
Published: 01/19/18
William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

A surge of Democrats seeking local legislative offices and hoping for a "blue wave" in the 2018 election continued last week, led by Bob Buesing filing to run again versus state Sen. Dana Young, R-Tampa.In addition:• Heather Kenyon Stahl of Tampa has...
Published: 01/19/18
Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

The smiles, applause and at least one hug belied the grim impetus for a gathering last week at a neighborhood center in Tampa — the Seminole Heights killings.The Tampa Police Department held a ceremony to thank those who helped in the investigation t...
Published: 01/19/18

Editorial: State’s warning shot should get attention of Hillsborough schools

The state Board of Education hopefully sent the message this week with its warning shot about the slow pace of the turnaround at Hillsborough County’s low-performing schools.The board criticized the school system for failing to replace administrators...
Published: 01/18/18
Updated: 01/19/18
Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

The Florida Legislature’s abrupt move to strip the University of South Florida St. Petersburg of its hard-earned separate accreditation and transform it back into a satellite of the major research university lacks detail and an appreciation for histo...
Published: 01/18/18

Another voice: Self-dealing by nursing home owners threatens patient care

The outsourcing of logistical support services, which became commonplace in the U.S. military in the 1990s and later was adopted by state prison systems, has now come to dominate the nursing home industry. And while nursing homes, unlike the military...
Published: 01/17/18
Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Three years into a crisis with its sewer system, St. Petersburg has a dandy new idea for dealing with the environmental fallout of dumping dirty water into the aquifer. Instead of committing to banning the outlawed practice, a consultant suggested th...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18
Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

A substitute teacher at a Plant City elementary school berated a class of fourth graders — and then the school principal. Another compared a student to a stripper. Others were caught napping, hitting children, making sexual remarks, giving students b...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18
Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

For the longest time, injured workers in Florida were basically at the mercy of the whims of employers to treat them fairly. A 2003 law aimed at reducing the cost of workers’ compensation coverage for businesses had the desired impact, but it also di...
Published: 01/16/18