A California man is battling to receive a license to practice law, but is being prevented from obtaining one by the government. Many immigrants seek out a work visa as a way to enter into the United States prior to applying for citizenship. In addition, recent changes may make it easier for some undocumented residents to gain lawful employment through work visas. In this case, although this man is in the country illegally, he put himself through law school and has passed the bar exam but may not be able to work as he intended to if the government wins their argument.
The United States Department of Justice has stated that the man is prohibited from receiving the license by federal law. They claim the law bans illegal immigrants from receiving a “public benefit,” in this case a license to practice law. A Justice Department lawyer claimed the law was designed to prevent undocumented immigrants for obtaining any type of license that has to be issued by state or federal governments.
The man seeking the license was brought to the United States from Mexico when he was less than 18 months old. He returned home when he was only 9, but then reentered the country at the age of 17. He graduated college and went on to attend Cal Northern School of Law. He paid all of his college expenses and received no financial assistance. The man’s father, now a U.S. citizen, requested a green card for his son almost 20 years ago; sadly, that application is still awaiting approval.
If the Justice Department’s decision is confirmed by California’s top court, it could have detrimental effects for immigrants in this country who are pursuing professional licenses. If the argument of the federal government is taken in the most literal interpretation, the decision could have broad sweeping effects on any industry requiring licensing. Passing the bar is not easy, but this man may face an even more difficult fight to win the ability to practice law in this country.
Source: Los Angeles Times, “Justice Department opposes illegal immigrant’s bid to practice law,” Maura Dolan, Aug. 12, 2012