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Florida lawmakers pass bill allowing noncitizens who stayed in the US illegally to get law licenses

Posted May 5, 2014 1:18 PM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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The Florida legislature on Friday passed legislation that would allow some noncitizens who stayed here illegally to become lawyers.

The bill would allow noncitizens in Florida to become lawyers if they were brought to the country as a child, if they lived here at least 10 years, if they have a work permit and a Social Security number, if they registered for the draft, and if they satisfied other requirements for bar admission, Reuters and the Tampa Tribune report. Gov. Rick Scott says he will sign the bill.

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Jose Manuel Godinez-Samperio.
ABA Journal file photo by Doug Scaletta.

The vote is good news for 27-year-old bar applicant Jose Manuel Godinez-Samperio, who was 9 when he came to the United States with his family on tourist visas. The family overstayed their visas. Godinez-Samperio says he never applied for citizenship because he would have to return to Mexico for years to be eligible. He says he satisfies the bill's requirements, according to the Tampa Tribune.

Godinez-Samperio was valedictorian of his high school, and he graduated with honors from Florida State University College of Law. He applied for admission to the Florida bar in 2011, but the Florida Supreme Court ruled in March that the law did not allow immigrants living in the country illegally to practice law.

Godinez-Samperio was in the Capitol when the law passed, according to the Tampa Tribune account. “I feel incredible,” he said. “This is an historic moment. I’m very thankful to everyone who worked on this.”

Prior coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "Immigrants living in US illegally can’t be lawyers, top Florida court says"

ABA Journal: "The Dream Bar: Some Children Illegally Living in the United States Grow Up to Want to Be Attorneys"

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