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American Bar Association Wants to Let Undocumented Immigrants Practice Law

On Monday, The American Bar Association’s House of Delegates passed a resolution demanding that Congress let undocumented immigrants practice law. The bar suggests that lawmakers should add this block of text, written by the ABA’s Law Student Division, to 8 U.S.C. 5 § 1621(d):

A state court vested with exclusive authority to regulate admission to the bar may, by rule, order, or other affirmative act, permit an undocumented alien seeking legal status to obtain a professional license to practice law in that jurisdiction.

This wouldn’t require state courts to license undocumented lawyers, but it would make it clear that the federal government won’t get in the way.

It will be a huge surprise if this move succeeds under the current administration. Republicans, who have a reputation for pushing stricter immigration laws than Democrats, maintain a (slight) majority in Congress. And then there’s the president. Donald Trump‘s policies don’t tend to favor the undocumented. Immigration and Customs Enforcement have boasted that arrest numbers for both criminal and non-criminal immigrants recently skyrocketed thanks to new executive orders.

A few states allow undocumented people to become lawyers. California started allowing some people to practice law thanks to a bill passed in 2013. Florida officials made José Godinez-Samperio, who was born in Mexico, a lawyer in 2014. New York man Cesar Vargas, also from south of the border, was admitted to the state bar in 2016.

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