I think so, assuming they go to law school, pass the bar and are found to be morally fit to practice law – the same hoops everyone else has to jump through. Why not?
Right now, courts in Florida and California are considering the cases of illegal immigrants who have applied for law licenses. It’s up to the supreme courts of individual states to decide whom to admit. It seems to be up for discussion, and I’ll be interested to see what happens.
The debate isn’t new. Politicians and interest groups have long been debating whether undocumented immigrants who were brought here as children by their parents should be given a pass. It was not their choice to come. They have grown up in this country, and for many, it’s the only home they know. And in one of these cases we are talking about a law student who has been in the U.S. since he was five months old.
Putting the larger immigration debate aside, admitting someone to the bar and giving them a license to practice law should be based on relevant qualifications like passing law school, passing the bar and passing the moral character portion of the application. (If you are familiar with my feelings on the bar exam, and even law school, you’ll know that I don’t find these to be perfect indicators of legal success, but I’d argue they are better than approving or denying an application based on where you were born.)
I suppose the entire issue is somewhat moot – in terms of getting a job – because the law prohibits undocumented immigrants from working for pay. But as one article suggests, you could still practice pro bono. Not realistic perhaps, but it’s possible. And what you’re going to do with your law license isn’t really the issue here – it’s whether you should be given the opportunity.
My opinion is based partly on the fact that these immigrants didn’t decide to come here illegally; they were brought here as children. It’s also based on the fact that denying a law license based on immigration status doesn’t make sense to me. Sure, there already are too many attorneys in this country, but I can’t say they’re all great. I’d hate to see qualified, passionate, bright law grads denied on a technicality.
My gut tells me that these applications in Florida and California ultimately will be denied. I hope I’m wrong. I just can’t see the harm in allowing ambitious young people pursue the practice of law, especially those who meet the criteria in every other way. If you have a good argument otherwise, I’d love to hear it.
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