Immigrant should be licensed as lawyer

Published Oct. 4, 2012

Jose Godinez-Samperio would seem to be the ideal candidate to be admitted into the Florida Bar to practice law. He is an Eagle Scout who succeeded academically as his high school valedictorian and later in college and law school. But although he has passed the Bar exam, Godinez-Samperio has not been granted a license to practice law. He was brought to the United States from Mexico by his parents when he was 9 years old, and he is an undocumented immigrant. The Florida Supreme Court, which conducted a hearing into Godinez-Samperio's status this week, should reject this senseless policy and issue an advisory opinion that would allow the accomplished young man to be admitted to the state Bar.

Godinez-Samperio, a graduate of Armwood High School in Seffner, is a victim of the nation's illogical immigration policy. It was not his decision to be brought to the United States at a young age. It was not his fault his parents overstayed their visas. Godinez-Samperio pursued the American dream of forging a better life for himself. As a product of Florida's public education system, taxpayers have invested in Godinez-Samperio's success. Yet, although he has been an exemplary student and a community asset, the Board of Bar Examiners could not agree if his undocumented immigration status disqualified him to practice law.

Godinez-Samperio's attorney, Talbot "Sandy" D'Alemberte, a former state legislator and Florida State University president who once headed the American Bar Association, has argued the Board of Bar Examiners overstepped its authority by applying an unwise policy "without a valid purpose" rather than an established rule governing the admission process. Godinez-Samperio makes a strong case for his Bar admission by noting President Barack Obama's executive order that allows younger undocumented immigrants to remain here legally and obtain temporary work permits that can be renewed.

Those are good reasons for the Florida Supreme Court to issue an advisory ruling in Godinez-Samperio's favor that would clear the way for the Bar to admit him so he can practice law. He should not have to wait for Washington to craft a sensible, compassionate and comprehensive immigration policy.