SANTA FE, NM (AP) — New Mexico will no longer deny licenses to practice law solely on the basis of an applicant’s citizenship or immigration status, including some aspiring law students who arrived illegally in the states United as children.
Announced on Monday, the New Mexico Supreme Court rule change is expected to go into effect Oct. 1. Several states already have provisions that do not consider residency or immigration status in licensing decisions.
“The leave rule change is grounded in the fundamental principle of fairness and is consistent with New Mexico’s historic values of inclusion and diversity,” Supreme Court Chief Justice Shannon Bacon said in a statement Tuesday. a statement.
She said the change aligns New Mexico with recommendations from the American Bar Association and with provisions in at least eight other states that grant attorney licenses to certain immigrants. All applicants are still required to graduate from law school, pass the bar exam, and undergo an additional personality check by a board of bar examiners.
The regulations drew immediate criticism from state Republican Party Chairman Steve Pearce as GOP candidates challenge two incumbent state Supreme Court justices in the November general election.
“It’s a reckless decision,” Pearce said in a statement. “This latest rule will open our borders even further, and the court seems to like to make arbitrary decisions without thinking about the consequences.”
New Mexico previously required applicants for a legal license to provide proof of citizenship, permanent resident status or work authorization.
Since 2017, the state justice system has cleared some applicants based on work permits tied to an Obama-era program that prevented the deportation of thousands of people brought to the United States as they were children.
Immigrant community advocates say the arrangement has been threatened by efforts to scrap the Deferred Action Program for Childhood Arrivals – ruled illegal by a Texas federal judge last year with a suspended sentence. appeal pending in the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.
Jazmin Irazoqui-Ruiz, senior attorney at the New Mexico Immigration Law Center, was the first in the state to qualify for a law license through work authorization under the program. DACA. She said the changes remove an arduous process and legal licenses that come with a stipulation.
“Immigrant status will no longer be a barrier to getting your law degree,” Irazoqui-Ruiz said. “It opens up economic opportunities, regardless of immigration status. … It has an effect on the family and the community.
Luis Leyva-Castillo, a recent graduate of the University of New Mexico School of Law, says new rules are dispelling clouds of uncertainty as he awaits the results of his law certification exam – one last major obstacle to obtaining a license.
Leyva-Castillo says he immigrated to the United States from Mexico with his family when he was 8 and relied on the DACA program to avoid deportation because he graduated with a degree from Ruidoso High School and two degrees from the University of New Mexico.
Now 25, he is preparing to work as a law clerk on the New Mexico Court of Appeals and said the licensing rule change “allows the state to use the community of immigrants that we already have and integrating them into our workforce to support the economy….I think that really sends a message.
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