N.Y. court grants law license to undocumented immigrant

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 04, 2015 12:11 PM

By Daniel Wiessner

(Reuters) - A New York appeals court has granted a law license to an undocumented immigrant who came to the U.S. as a child, ruling in one of the first cases of its kind that immigration status has little to do with practicing law.

The Appellate Division, Second Department, in Brooklyn said on Wednesday that immigration activist Cesar Vargas, 31, had met all of the qualifications necessary to win a law license, including showing the required character and fitness.

"We are guided by the United States Supreme Court's long-standing recognition that visiting condemnation on the head of an infant is illogical and unjust," the unanimous court wrote.

Vargas was brought to the United States from Mexico by his mother when he was 5, court documents said. He qualified for a renewable two-year amnesty through a government program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, aimed at people who came into the country illegally as children and were 30 or younger in 2012.

The court's decision applies only to people enrolled in that program.

Vargas, who advocates for reforms to immigration laws, passed the state bar exam after attending New York City public schools, St. Francis College in Brooklyn and CUNY Law School, the court said.

The first undocumented immigrant in the United States to be granted a law license was Sergio Garcia, who was admitted to the California bar last year after coming to the country from Mexico when he was a toddler. Vargas appears to be the second. (http://reut.rs/1cL48uD)

Vargas and his attorney, Juan Cartagena, the president of the legal group LatinoJustice PRLDEF, did not immediately return requests for comment on Thursday. In a tweet, the group said Vargas "broke new ground for immigrants everywhere."

The office of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman backed Vargas, telling the court in a brief that a federal law barring undocumented immigrants from receiving professional licenses violated the U.S. Constitution.

The case is In the Matter of the Application of Cesar Adrian Vargas, New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Second Department, No. 2013-10725.

For Vargas: Juan Cartagena of LatinoJustice PRLDEF.

(Editing by Ted Botha and Alan Crosby)