Wilner & O'Reilly, APLC
One Practice. One Focus. One Passion: Immigration Law.

Can an undocumented immigrant become a California attorney?

A young man that apparently has labeled an illegal immigrant since he was 17 months old now hopes that he can become licensed to practice law in the state of California. This young man has achieved a remarkable academic record through high school, college and law school. He also passed the State Bar exam on his very first try.

There is only one thing in the way preventing him from practicing law in this state, and that one thing is his immigration status. Federal law prevents undocumented immigrants from obtaining public benefits, but the question for the courts is whether the obtaining of an attorney's license would be considered a public benefit under that law.

Obviously, this appears to be an unexplored area of immigration law in that it involves a possibly novel interpretation of federal statutes. This is extremely complex area and will likely require the assistance of an experienced immigration attorney.

When it comes to interpreting immigration laws, lawyers must often address the spirit behind these laws rather than simply the letter of the law. In other words, we need to make certain that talented professionals and entrepreneurs are not kept out of our nation due to technicalities. It is not a benefit to anyone to keep the best and the brightest from practicing what they do best.

In the above circumstances, the young man of course will not be able to practice what he has been trained to do until he receives the appropriate license to practice law. All other questions regarding employability cannot be pursued until this issue is addressed.

Source: KPCC, "Undocumented immigrant seeking to practice law awaits California Supreme Court Ruling," by Ruxandra Guidi, Jan. 18, 2013

For more information regarding representation of immigrant entrepreneurs in our country, please visit our law firm's webpage.

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