Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Support for Law Graduate's Dream

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Support for Law Graduate's Dream

Article excerpt

TALLAHASSEE

A Mexican immigrant seeking entrance to the Florida Bar drew the support of Florida House Republicans Thursday on a bill sponsored by State Rep. Greg Steube.

The House passed Steube's bill, which would allow a law school graduate who is not a U.S. citizen to be admitted to the bar under certain circumstances.

Steube, a Sarasota Republican, had seemed an unlikely champion for the cause, which was unrelated to his original bill. He had recently voted against a measure favoring undocumented students.

"This has been one of the most challenging things that I've faced here," Steube said. But he ultimately went to bat for the law graduate, Jose Godinez-Samperio, on the House floor Thursday.

The House vote seemed to indicate an ongoing shift in Republican immigration politics with the growing importance of the Hispanic vote.

Steube said he had originally filed an "innocuous" bill dealing with judicial notice but was persuaded to support the Senate amendment inspired by law school graduate's situation.

Godinez-Samperio was brought to the U.S. by his parents at age 9, and graduated from New College of Florida and law school at Florida State University. He passed the Bar exam more than two years ago, but the Supreme Court blocked him from admittance to the Bar because he is not a citizen.

"He is now unlawfully present in our country," Steube said. But the details of the law graduate's situation are compelling, he said.

Godinez-Samperio is one of the so-called "Dreamers" who has been allowed by executive order to legally remain and work in the U.S. He has a Social Security card and has registered for selective service.

"He pays taxes," Steube said. If a war draft goes into effect, "he would be called up just as anyone else would."

House Republicans peppered Steube with questions, asking if the bill would open the door for undocumented immigrants to become judges and whether more non-citizen law students were on the way.

But the House passed the bill 79-37 with Godinez-Samperio watching. …

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