New Report Calls for Acces to Law Licenses for Undocumented Law Graduates


Contacts: Luis Ángel Reyes Zavalza, NYU School of Law Student & Bickel & Brewer Latino Institute for Human Rights Scholar, (510) 712-7623, Alina Das, Assistant Professor of Clinical Law & Faculty Director of the Bickel & Brewer Latino Institute for Human Rights at NYU Law School, (347) 693-6485, Jose Perez, Deputy General Counsel of LatinoJustice PRLDEF, (212) 219-3360 x7575,

New Report Calls for Access to Law Licenses for Undocumented Law Graduates

Download the report HERE.

What: Report launch at National Symposium hosted by NYU Law School’s Bickel & Brewer Latino Institute for Human Rights

When: February 21, 2014 from 1:30-3pm (full event details below)

Where: NYU School of Law, Lipton Hall, 108 West Third Street, New York, NY

As the California Supreme Court cleared the way for the first undocumented immigrant to be publicly sworn in as a licensed attorney earlier this month, a new report from NYU Law School’s Bickel & Brewer Latino Institute for Human Rights and LatinoJustice PRLDEF argues that state and federal policymakers and courts should ensure that undocumented law graduates across the country have the same opportunity. With the developments in California, and with cases pending in Florida and New York, the issue of whether undocumented law graduates can receive law licenses is garnering increasing attention from the general public and from undocumented immigrants who hope to enter careers in the law.

“This issue will continue to come up before state courts across the country,” said Luis Ángel Reyes Zavalza, a current undocumented law student and Latino Institute Scholar at NYU Law School who coauthored the report. “Because the federal government has failed to pass comprehensive immigration reform, undocumented students who enroll in and graduate from law school will continue to struggle to obtain law licenses.”

To help unpack this complicated issue and provide bar admissions entities and legislators with the information they need to assess this critical issue, the Latino Institute, together with LatinoJustice, is releasing the report, Lifting the Bar: Undocumented Law Graduates & Access to Law Licenses. The report highlights the stories of undocumented law graduates throughout the country who are directly affected by this issue. It also lays out the legal issues involved in the ongoing litigation, explaining why state bar examiners and state courts should not deny law licenses to undocumented law graduates based on their immigration status. In addition, the report describes how state legislatures can follow California’s lead and enact affirmative legislation to protect undocumented law graduates’ access to state bar admissions.

“We hope that this report will help undocumented students achieve their dreams of becoming lawyers and serving their communities,” said Professor Alina Das, Faculty Director of the Latino Institute at NYU Law School. “These aspiring attorneys have a critical role to play in the legal profession and have already contributed so much to our society.”

The report raises important concerns regarding current obstacles to bar admission for undocumented law graduates. “Those states who deny bar admission to undocumented law graduates who have passed the bar exam and otherwise have been found eligible for admission but for their immigration status may very well be violating the law, and contravening the American dream,” stated Jose Perez, Deputy General Counsel of LatinoJustice PRLDEF. “States should not be creating artificial barriers to professional career advancement. These law graduates represent the changing face of America, and denying them their well earned opportunity to commence their legal careers only hurts us. As a nation, we remain stronger when we protect and respect each other’s rights, and nurture the American dream for all people, including immigrants. We should be ensuring we do all we can to advance our next generation of community leaders.”

The report was released on Friday, February 21, 2014 at this year’s Latino Institute for Human Rights Third Annual Symposium, “A Force for Change: Advancing the Rights of the Latino Community.” The symposium brings together community organizers and law practitioners from across the country to discuss legal and public policy issues confronting our nation’s Latino community.

Undocumented attorney Sergio Garcia, who was recently admitted to the California State Bar, will join Cesar Vargas, an undocumented law graduate whose case is still pending in New York, to discuss their struggle for law licenses. Other panels will also discuss an array of issues relating to voting rights and local anti-immigrant ordinances. * * *

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