Undocumented Immigrant Granted License to Practice Law in New York

The New York Appellate Division, Second Department in Brooklyn ruled that 31 year old Cesar Vargas of Dream Action Coalition (DRM), an undocumented immigrant who came to the United States as a child, is eligible to practice law in the state. Federal law prohibits undocumented immigrants to become practicing lawyer unless there is a state law that allows it. The ruling is the first favorable action in New York that has allowed undocumented immigrants to practice law in New York. This ruling only applies to those who are enrolled in the Deferred Action Childhood Arrivals, which aims at helping those who came into the country illegally as children and are under the age of 30 in 2012.


Cesar Vargas was brought to the United States from Mexico by his mother at the age of 5. He qualified for a renewable two-year amnesty through the government program Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Vargas passed the state bar exam after attending New York City public schools, St. Francis College in Brooklyn and CUNY Law School. He is an advocate for reforms to immigration laws. The Appellate Division found that Mr. Vargas met all the qualifications necessary to get a law license, including meeting the good character and general fitness requirement for the NY bar admission.


The Obama administration argued in a brief submitted by the Department of Justice that Vargas was forbidden from obtaining a license by the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act. However, the New York’s attorney general also supported giving Mr. Vargas a license.





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