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Friday, Dec 19, 2014

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Tampa lawmaker wants bill allowing unauthorized immigrant to become lawyer


Published:   |   Updated: March 7, 2014 at 03:06 PM

Rep. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, is now asking House Speaker Will Weatherford “to remedy the deficiencies in Florida’s law” and allow a Tampa man in the country without authorization to get a law license.

In a letter released Friday, Cruz asked the speaker to prepare legislation that would allow Jose Godinez-Samperio to become a Florida lawyer.

“Having arrived in America at age 9, he is an Eagle Scout, a high school valedictorian, and an award-winning graduate of the Florida State University College of Law,” Cruz wrote to Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel.

“He and other children of immigrant parents should not be prohibited from practicing law in this state only because of their immigration status.”

The state Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Godinez-Samperio, who passed the bar examination in 2011, couldn’t be admitted because federal law prohibits states from granting professional licenses to immigrants who entered the U.S. or stayed here illegally.

Godinez-Samperio, who graduated from Florida State University’s law school, came to the United States on a tourist visa from Mexico with his parents when he was 9. The family never returned.

Federal law does, however, let a state pass its own law to override the prohibition and grant licenses and other “public benefits” to unauthorized immigrants.

“I ask that appropriate House committees promptly begin developing a committee bill rectifying this flaw in Florida statutes,” Cruz wrote.

The deadline to file bills for this legislative session has passed but legislation still can be introduced as a proposed committee bill.

Weatherford spokesman Ryan Duffy could not be immediately reached but said Thursday the chamber’s in-house lawyers were reviewing the court’s decision.

UPDATE: The News Service of Florida reports that Sen. Darren Soto, D-Orlando, sent a similar letter to Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville.

UPDATE 2: Duffy says they’re still reviewing the decision.

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