Jose Godinez-Samperio, 25, graduated at the top of his class at Florida State University’s College of Law. But the aspiring lawyer may not get to practice what he worked so hard to achieve.
Godinez-Sampeiro is an undocumented immigrant and based on his legal status the Florida Board of Bar Examiners denied him entry into the state Bar.
Godinez-Samperio, originally from Mexico, entered the U.S. legally with his parents when he was 9 years-old on a tourist visa but the family overstayed their allowed period of visitation. Since his time in the U.S. Godinez-Samperio became the valedictorian of his high school class in 2004, an Eagle Scout which is the highest rank attainable in the Boy Scouting program of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) and graduated from Florida State University College of Law.
His case is now being reviewed by the Supreme Court to determine whether the Florida Board of Bar Examiners can accept someone who is not in the country legally, the Orlando Sentinel reports. The Supreme Court flagged his case as "high profile" last week.
Godinez-Samperio’s story rings a familiar tune. A similar case is being reviewed in New York.
Mexican immigrant Cesar Vargas, 28, who graduated from law school at the City University of New York and passed the state Bar exam in November of 2011, awaits word on whether he will be able to practice law, according to Mercury News. Vargas, who was brought to the U.S. when he was 5 years-old by his mother, is also an undocumented immigrant.
Godinez-Sampeiro has also been public about his legal status, describing himself as "undocumented, unapologetic and unafraid," according to The Orlando Sentinel. The aspiring lawyer has aligned himself with the slogan has become a motto for the undocumented youth.
But his case has once again rendered much controversy on undocumented students. Opponents fighting against Godinez-Sampeiro, hold on to the argument that even if he were admitted to the Bar he can’t legally work in the U.S.
"No one who has shown this guy's level of contempt for American law should be practicing law," said William Gheen, president of Americans for Legal Immigration, a political action committee that opposes amnesty for undocumented immigrants according to the Orlando Sentinel.
Meanwhile, others root in his favor. One of them being his attorney, Sandy D'Alemberte, a former Democratic member of the Florida House of Representatives from Miami and a former president of the American Bar Association.
"It is unfair to deny him the credentials he's earned," said D'Alemberte according to the the Orlando Sentinel pointing out that there's nothing in the "Rules of the Supreme Court Relating to Admissions to the Florida Bar" that requires applicants to prove their immigration status.
“Jose did not try to fake it. He admitted to the Bar and the Florida State law school that he was an undocumented immigrant,” D’Alemberte said according to The Palm Beach Post.
Those siding with Godinez-Sampeiro have suggested he can practice law in Florida if he takes on cases pro-bono.