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Should DREAMers become lawyers?

Photo by Joe Raedle / Getty Images

There’s an interesting story developing in Florida in which an undocumented man, allowed to remain in the country thanks to Obama’s latest deportation policy change, wants to become a practicing lawyer.

Jose Godinez-Samperio has already received his law degree from Florida State University and passed the state bar exam, but the Florida Board of Bar Examiners refused to admit him before they received an advisory opinion from the state’s supreme court on whether undocumented immigrants are allowed to practice law.

I’m no lawyer, and therefore don’t know of any precedents relating to the case, but the situation appears to be a complicated one if you approach it from a purely fundamental standpoint.

Here we have a young man, 25, who was brought here when he was 9 years old, who has a law degree from a state university, has passed the state bar exam, and now wants to practice law under the same provisions granted by the Obama administration allowing undocumented immigrants to remain in the country and find work.

I would think that any person who’s allowed to stay and work in this country should be allowed to work in the field they were trained in. Becoming a lawyer, however, gives a person a certain status that an undocumented person, who’s technically here “unlawfully,” likely should not have.

Anyone who knows me or knows my work understands that there is no greater advocate of the DREAM Act and no greater supporter of DREAMers than I. Still, allowing people who are in the country unlawfully to practice law strikes me as playing a bit too fast and loose with the law. If an undocumented person can practice law, then it should mean that they can also practice medicine, become a certified public accountant, and whatnot; and yet, at the same time, such persons can’t even apply for a driver’s license in most states, buy car insurance, establish credit, apply for a loan, travel abroad, rent an apartment in their own name, and so many other things.

It all adds up to a confusing mess. Either we don’t allow undocumented immigrants the right to practice law and medicine in the United States, or we allow them to do all the things I’ve listed above — practically granting them a status on par with permanent residency.

And if we allow them to do all those other things, then where will be the downside of unlawful presence? Not being able to vote?

Most Latinos don’t vote as it is.

About Adriana Villavicencio

Dr. Adriana Villavicencio is the youngest child of Ecuadorian immigrants. She has moved 29 times in her life, taking her on a journey from California to Bangalore, India, and New York City, where she recently earned a Ph.D. in Education Leadership and works as a Research Associate at New York University. An avid traveler, Adriana has collected experiences in four different continents and 16 different countries. But as a former high school English teacher, some of her fondest memories are those of her brilliant and brilliantly funny students in Brooklyn and Oakland. Adriana has contributed to several publications including the Daily News and, and is a managing editor for the Journal of Equity in Education. She earned a B.A. in English and an M.A. in English Education at Columbia University, and currently serves on the board of Columbia’s Latino Alumni Association (LAACU). She enjoys scary movies with red vines, Sauvignon Blanc, and her Maltese dog, Napoleon.

To learn more about Adriana’s education consulting company, please visit

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.


  1. Dear Mr. Alamo…really? So someone that arrives in this country “illegally,” yet by virtue of a change in law is permitted to stay, study, and work, but we should restrict them from becoming a lawyer, doctor or accountant? I fail to see the logic in this position. Are you saying that it’s okay for this 25 year old to work as a gardener, bus boy, or parking attendant but not as a professional despite the fact that he paid for, studied for, and qualified (by virtue of passing the Bar Exam), to practice law? Is not one of the arguments against illegal immigration that they come here and feed off of social programs and burden local resources? Yet here we have an individual that has clearly chosen to elevate himself and become a productive member of society…with the sanction of the Federal government…and your opinion is that he should be precluded from pursuing his dream? But if he wants to join the military and go overseas for us to get his limbs shot off, I am sure you are all for that. I am glad that you do not speak for me because your point of view is far from Being Latino. This man is not “technically” any different from you or me. He is authorized by law to be here, and he should be able to live his Dream.

  2. Why not, they feel entitled and take advantage of the system now anyway. I think they will make excellent ambulance chasers.

  3. Good point about military service, Steve. I think servicepeople and veterans should be granted citizenship by virtue of their service.

  4. Anyone who would die for this country should be allowed to live in this country and enjoy the full rights and privileges of citizenship.

  5. Most of us earn our American citizenship simply because this is where we fell out of our moms.

  6. So the only other option than Being Born Here is for Parents to enter the Country Illegally?!?!? what a COP-OUT!!!

  7. Why is he still undocumented at 25? I know that process can take a while, has he initiated that?

  8. He is undocumented at 25 because there is no law that allows for him to get documents. The executive order only allows him to work and not get deported until there is no executive order. Secondly if you entered the country illegally you can not adjust. Even if you marry an American citizen you must go through a deportation proceeding

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