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DREAM Bar Association Advocates for Licensing of Undocumented Lawyers, and Immigration Reform

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This morning, the DREAM Bar Association (DBA), the first and only bar association representing undocumented lawyers, held a press conference highlighting the launch of their “DREAM lawyers” campaign.  The group is combining research, litigation, and advocacy to encourage all 50 states to grant law licenses to undocumented immigrant students—and to emphasize the need for immigration reform.

Among the speakers this morning were Sergio Garcia, an undocumented law graduate and the plaintiff in the California Supreme Court bar licensing case; Jose Manuel Godinez-Samperio, an undocumented law graduate and the applicant in the Florida Supreme court case; Cesar Vargas, an undocumented law graduate seeking admission to the New York State Bar; Vanessa Pumar, an undocumented law student; Brent Wilkes, Executive Director of United Latin American Citizens; Frank Sharry, Executive Director here at America’s Voice; and Angela Kelley, Vice President of Immigration Policy at Center for American Progress.

Currently, undocumented youth who have graduated from law school and passed a bar exam find it difficult to practice because law licenses are controlled by state supreme courts, and federal law prohibits employers from knowingly hiring undocumented immigrants.  That’s what happened to Sergio Garcia, who came to the US as an infant, passed the California bar exam on his first try, and was sworn in two years later—only to have the California Supreme Court look into his certification when news reports started questioning his immigration status.

But since President Obama announced his DREAMer deferred action program earlier this year, granting some DREAMers temporary protection from deportation as well as work permits, the obstacles to DREAMers becoming practicing lawyers would seem to have evaporated.  That’s why the DREAM Bar Association is coming together to provide a forum for providing help to members seeking to become lawyers, and to encourage the admission of DREAMer law practitioners to state bars across the country.

As Jose Magana, the President of the DREAM Bar Association, said in their press advisory, “This is a fundamental question of fairness. It is only fair that those that struggled and dedicated years of their lives to obtain a legal degree should be able to employ that degree to the fullest extent.”