Jose Godinez-Samperio is undocumented, having come to the U.S. from Mexico with his parents when he was 9 years old. A graduate of Armwood High School in Tampa and later Florida State University's law school, he is the living embodiment for comprehensive immigration reform, advocates like Kathy Castor and Bill Nelson say.
That's because even though he passed the state bar exam, The Board of Bar Examiners in Florida said they could find no reason to deny him a license, but asked the state's high court for guidance.
Today the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the Florida Bar can't admit immigrants who are in the country illegally, ruling against Godinez-Samperio. The court ruled that federal law prohibits people who are unlawfully in the country from obtaining professional licenses. They said state law can override the federal ban, but Florida has yet to do so.
“While I respect the exclusive authority of the judicial branch to make this decision, I am, nevertheless, tremendously disappointed by today’s Florida Supreme Court ruling in the case of Tampa immigrant and Florida State University law school graduate Jose Godinez-Samperio, who the court has decided cannot be admitted into The Florida Bar," said Tampa House Democratic Representative Janet Cruz in a statement.
"As noted by Associate Justice Jorge Labarga, Jose is an ‘exemplary individual The Florida Bar should strive to add to its membership,'" she added. "Accordingly, I believe today’s ruling epitomizes the flaws in our nation’s broken immigration system and the need for comprehensive immigration reform."
Godinez-Samperio was the guest of Congresswoman Castor at President Obama's State of the Union address in January of last year, and was able to take a photo with the president (as seen above).Two years ago she filed a letter of support on his behalf to the Florida Supreme Court, where she wrote,
"It is a shame that his legal status is even in question. I have championed passage of the DREAM act precisely for students like Jose. If the DREAM Act were in place right now, students like Jose Godinez-Samperio would automatically be admitted to the Florida Bar, and immigrants who meet the DREAM Act criteria would be able to access loans for college and even go on to law school or obtain other graduate degrees. We must encourage our nation’s next generation - not place obstacles in their path to success."