Undocumented Immigrant Overcomes Obstacles to Practice Law in Florida

It’s never easy to become a lawyer.
But it was a different dimension of difficult for Jose Godinez-Samperio, whose quest to practice law in Florida took him not only through law school but through the state Supreme Court and the Legislature.
Godinez-Samperio was sworn into the Florida Bar last week after legislators rewrote state law to allow an illegal immigrant to practice in the state.
“It was so incredible,” Godinez-Samperio said after taking the oath of admission at a Hispanic Bar Association gala in Tampa. “Everybody was there from so many parts of my life.”
Godinez-Samperio’s struggle began with his parents’ struggle. They abandoned an economically ravaged Mexico in December 1995. Even his father, a veterinarian, and his mother, a dentist, doubted they could ever work again in their careers in their home country, which was going through its worst economic crisis since the 1930s. The family arrived in Dover on tourist visas — and stayed.
Godinez-Samperio’s father took a job on a dairy farm. His mother worked at factories and thrift shops.
All the while, their son excelled.
He graduated as Armwood High School’s valedictorian in 2004 and achieved the rank of Eagle Scout. He enrolled at New College in Sarasota and received a bachelor’s degree in anthropology. He applied to law school at Florida State, and rather than hide his status, he wrote his application essay on his struggles as an illegal immigrant.

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