Thursday, March 6, 2014

Florida Bars Unauthorized Immigrants From Bar Eligibility

The Florida Supreme Court today issued an opinion holding that unauthorized immigrants are prohibited from seeking admission to practice law in the Sunshine State:

...we answer the Florida Board of Bar Examiners’ question by holding that unauthorized immigrants are ineligible for admission to The Florida Bar. Applicants are required to demonstrate that they are legally present in the United States.

It is so ordered

Justice Labarga "reluctantly" concurred

Based on the foregoing, it is evident that the only barrier to admission to The Florida Bar for Applicant and others similarly situated is 8 U.S.C. §§ 1621(a) and (c). Indeed, in many respects, Applicant’s life in the United States parallels my own. He and I were brought to this great nation as young children by our hardworking immigrant parents. We both learned to read, write, and speak the English language within a short period of time. We excelled scholastically and graduated from college and law school—Applicant from Florida State University and I from the University of Florida. Both of us were driven by the opportunities this great nation offered to realize the American dream. Sadly, however, here the similarities end and the perceptions of our accomplishments begin. When I arrived in the United States from Cuba in 1963, soon after the Cuban Missile Crisis—the height of the Cold War—my parents and I were perceived as defectors from a tyrannical communist regime. Thus, we were received with open arms, our arrival celebrated, and my path to citizenship and the legal profession unimpeded by public policy decisions. Applicant, however, who is perceived to be a defector from poverty, is viewed negatively because his family sought an opportunity for economic prosperity. It is this distinction of perception, a distinction that I cannot justify regarding admission to The Florida Bar, that is at the root of Applicant’s situation. Applicant is so near to realizing his goals yet so agonizingly far because, regrettably, unlike the California Legislature, the Florida Legislature has not exercised its considerable authority on this important question. Thus, only reluctantly do I concur with the majority decision.

(Mike Frisch)

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