SANTA FE, NM ( Associated Press) – New Mexico will no longer deny a license to practice law solely on the basis of an applicant’s citizenship or immigration status, including some aspiring law students who have been illegally engaged during their childhood had come to the United States.
The rule change by the state Supreme Court, announced on Monday, will be effective from October 1. Many states already have provisions that do not take into account residency or immigration status when issuing licenses.
“The license rule change is based on a fundamental principle of equality, and aligns with New Mexico’s historic values of inclusion and diversity,” Chief Justice Shannon Bacon said in a statement Tuesday.
He said the change follows recommendations from the American Bar Association and provisions in at least eight other states that grant law licenses to certain immigrants. All applicants must still graduate from law school, pass the bar exam, and undergo further character assessment by a board of bar examiners.
The rule drew immediate criticism from state GOP chairman Steve Pierce as the party’s candidates faced two state Supreme Court justices in the November general election.
“This is an unwise decision,” Pearce said in a statement. “This latest rule will further open our borders, and the court is happy to make arbitrary decisions without thinking about the consequences.”
Previously, New Mexico required attorney permit applicants to present proof of citizenship, permanent resident status, or work permits.
Since 2017, the state’s judiciary has licensed some candidates under President Barack Obama on the basis of work authorizations linked to a program that has prevented the deportation of thousands of people who were illegally sent to the United States during their childhoods. was brought in.
Advocates for immigrant communities said the deal was threatened by efforts to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which a Texas judge ruled illegal last year. Orleans.
Jazmin Irazoki-Ruiz, senior attorney at the New Mexico Immigration Law Center, was the first person in the state to qualify for a law license through work authorization under the DACA program. He said the changes eliminate a painstaking process and the right license that comes with a condition.
“Immigration status will not be an obstacle to obtaining your law license”, Irazoki-Ruiz said. “It opens up an economic opportunity, regardless of immigration status… It has an impact on the family and the community.”
Luis Leva-Castillo, who recently graduated from the University of New Mexico School of Law, said the new rules dispel a cloud of uncertainty as he awaits the results of his law certification exam, to obtain a license. The last big hurdle before.
Leva-Castillo said he immigrated to the United States from Mexico with his family at age 8 and relied on the DACA program to avoid deportation after earning a high school diploma in Ruidoso and two degrees from the University of New Mexico. did. Mexico.
The 25-year-old is preparing to work as a paralegal in the New Mexico Court of Appeals and said the licensing rule change “allows the state to use the immigrant community we already have and give them access to our workforce.” Integrates in. Economy up. … I think it really sends a message.”