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Matter of Application of Cesar Adrian Vargas for Admission to the Bar of the State of New York - 2015 NY Slip Op 04657 - Decided on June 3, 2015 - Appellate Division, Second Department: "We are called upon to determine whether an undocumented immigrant, who is authorized to be present in the United States under the auspices of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy of the federal government, and who meets the statutory eligibility requirements and the rules of court governing admission to the practice of law in the State of New York, may satisfy the standard of good character and general fitness necessary for admission. We are further called upon to determine whether such an individual is barred from admission to the practice of law by a federal statute, 8 USC § 1621, which generally prohibits the issuance of state professional licenses to undocumented immigrants unless an individual state has enacted legislation affirmatively authorizing the issuance of such licenses. This presents an issue of first impression in New York and, in terms of the applicability of 8 USC § 1621 and its compatibility with the Tenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, an issue of first impression nationwide.
We hold that a narrow reading of 8 USC § 1621(d), so as to require a state legislative enactment to be the sole mechanism by which the State of New York exercises its authority granted in 8 USC § 1621(d) to opt out of the restrictions on the issuance of licenses imposed by 8 USC § 1621(a), unconstitutionally infringes on the sovereign authority of the state to divide power among its three coequal branches of government. Further, we hold, in light of this state's allocation of authority to the judiciary to regulate the granting of professional licenses to practice law (see Judiciary Law § 53), that the judiciary may exercise its authority as the state sovereign to opt out of the restrictions imposed by section 1621(a) to the limited extent that those restrictions apply to the admission of attorneys to the practice of law in the State of New York. Accordingly, we answer the first question in the affirmative and the second question in the negative."
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