Being Illegal

Jose Manuel Godinez-Samperio was 9 years old when his parents, travelling on tourist visas, brought him  with them from Mexico to the U.S.  They never returned to Mexico.

Jose went on to become the valedictorian of his high school and an Eagle Scout.  He attended the prestigious New College of Florida and later Florida State Law School, from which he graduated with honors.

In 2008 the Florida Bar imposed a requirement on bar applicants that they show proof of citizenship in order to take the bar exam.  In 2011 the Bar granted an exemption to Jose and he passed the exam on his first try.

But after Jose had passed the exam and satisfied all the moral fitness requirements the Bar asked the Florida Supreme Court, in December 2011, whether it could lawfully admit an undocumented immigrant (aka an “illegal” immigrant).  The U.S. Department of Justice intervened in the case, arguing that federal law prohibits states from issuing bar licenses to “unlawfully present aliens.”  At least 3 former presidents of the Florida Bar have publicly opposed the position being taken by the DOJ.  In April the Florida Supreme Court declined to give any advisory opinion on the matter.  As of now Jose, who was truthful about his status in all of his applications, is still not admitted and perhaps never will be.

My wife’s niece lives in Texas.  A few years ago she married a Mexican-American man.  After they were married he applied for insurance, using the social security number his parents had told him many years ago was his.  Unbeknownst to him, he had actually been brought to America by them as an infant and the SSN was bogus.  His parents had never told him.

He was arrested and deported–dropped over the border into a country he had never visited. Fortunately he was able to connect with relatives in Mexico City, so he had a place to live.  My wife’s niece was able to travel to Mexico City from time to time to see her husband, who had lived almost his entire life in the U.S., and who went to and graduated from American schools.  His crime was that as an infant his parents brought him into the U.S. without permission or the proper paperwork.  Very recently he was allowed to return to the U.S. to be with his wife.  I’m not sure what his current status is or whether he’ll be allowed to stay.

Deportations have doubled under the Obama administration, to about 400,000 per year.

There is a story behind every deportation and every privilege denied.  Perhaps in many cases justice is being served.

But “justice” is not the word I would apply to situations like those I’ve described.

In those cases and those like them, something is broken.