DREAMer Application to NYS Bar Granted

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 3rd, 2015 CONTACT: John Garcia, Director of Communications, 212-739-7513, 917-673-9095 or jgarcia@latinojustice.org. Christiaan Perez 212-739-7581, 925-522-6840 or cperez@latinojustice.org

The New York State Supreme Court Second Department Appellate Division today issued a decision approving the bar application of Cesar Vargas, who was brought to the United States from Mexico when he was 5 years old and eventually graduated from City University of New York School of Law. Mr. Vargas, a DREAMer is authorized to be present in the United States under the auspices of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) of the federal government. Vargas had been approved for deferred action status in 2012 under the Obama Administration's initial Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

This is the first favorable New York court decision explicitly holding that a law graduate with DACA can meet the good character and general fitness requirement for NY bar admission. Moreover, in a matter of national first impression, the court further found that such an individual is not barred by federal law provision prohibiting the issuance of state professional licenses to undocumented immigrants unless a state had enacted legislation authorizing the issuance of such licenses which was found to unconstitutionally infringes upon the state’s sovereign authority to divide power among its three coequal branches of government, where as in New York, the authority to regulate the granting of professional licenses to practice law has been allocated to the judiciary who may exercise its authority as state sovereign to opt out as here of those restrictions.

Cesar Vargas, co-director the Dream Action Coalition (DRM) "Today, my dear New York is embracing me as I'm officially one step closer to being sworn in as a licensed lawyer."

"Cesar Vargas exemplifies the qualities and commitment this country needs in our workforce. I applaud the Second Department for affirming what we all see in Mr. Vargas; that he is a welcome addition to the Bar. This Court did not shy away from the larger issues in the immigration debate and in doing so gives hope to many aspiring Latino law students who also have legal presence like Mr. Vargas." Juan Cartagena, President and General Counsel

“I am very pleased that the Court has cleared the path to a law license for undocumented immigrants who are authorized to be present in the United States under the federal policy of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. All qualified persons – including DACA immigrants – deserve the opportunity to hold a license and practice law, thereby enabling them to make important contributions to their communities and the state and nation. Today’s important ruling makes clear that in New York the courts have the authority to determine whether a person meets the qualifications for the practice of law, and nothing in federal law prevents a court from making that determination.”

“I am extremely pleased that the NYS Supreme Court Appellate Division 2d Department in granting Mr. Vargas’ bar application has provided other State Courts who have yet to address this issue an important precedent” said Jose Perez, Deputy General Counsel of LatinoJustice PRLDEF who represented Mr. Vargas. “I applaud Cesar for his vision, determination and perseverance to opening the door for countless other current and aspiring DREAMer law students seeking the opportunity to pursue their law license irrespective of their status. I look forward tio welcoming him as a fellow member of the bar.” And we also want to thank NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for the OAG’s compelling amicus brief unequivocally supporting Vargas’ bar admission, and articulating the State’s sound legal opinion that the judicial branch of government may equally exercise the authority of the sovereign.

“We are elated that the Appellate Division has concluded that Mr. Vargas, who was an excellent CUNY Law student, is qualified and should be admitted to practice law in the State of New York.” Michelle J. Anderson, Dean and Professor of Law CUNY School of Law who testified in support of Cesar’s bar admission.

We are thrilled that the court has recognized the sovereignty of the state's judiciary to admit qualified law graduates regardless of immigration status," said Alina Das, Associate Professor of Clinical Law and Faculty Director of the Bickel & Brewer Latino Institute for Human Rights at NYU School of Law, which co-authored a report on undocumented law graduates' access to law licenses with LatinoJustice. " No person should be denied a law license because they are undocumented."

“The Second Department correctly determined that Cesar Vargas, a CUNY School of Law graduate and DACA recipient, can be admitted to the New York State Bar stated CUNY Law Professor Janet Calvo. The Court affirmed the constitutional prerogative of the New York Judiciary to determine who, as an individual, has the requisite character and fitness to represent a client and protect the rule of law and administration of justice, without blanket prohibitions based in immigration status. This provides encouragement to the Dreamers, like Mr. Vargas, who pursue education so they can contribute to their states and cities.” CUNY Law Professor Janet Calvo

Mr. Vargas, 31, who attended and graduated from James Madison High School in Brooklyn, St. Francis College, and CUNY School of Law in 2011. He subsequently passed the July 2011 New York bar exam. Mr. Vargas has received the written support from prominent members of Congress including U.S. Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL), and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

Immigration continues to become a prominent issue in the country and upcoming presidential election with many candidates promising to repeal the expanded DACA and new DAPA programs promulgated by President Obama this past November which permits the federal government to exercise its prosecutorial discretion and stopping the deportation of undocumented youth, and parents of U.S. citizen children.

Cesar’s formal bar admission is pending as he still needs to submit some additional paperwork verifying his pro bono work as now required by NY bar admission rules.

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