Court Rules that Undocumented Immigrants are Not Eligible for Admission to the Florida Bar

In Florida Board of Bar Examiners Re Question as to Whether Undocumented Immigrants are Eligible for Admission to the Florida Bar (SC11-2568), the Florida Supreme Court decided in a unanimous per curiam decision that undocumented immigrants are not eligible for admission to the Florida Bar. Prior discussions of the case and arguments are available here and here.
The Florida Supreme Court based its decision on federal law, which provides that an alien is not eligible for any state public benefit, including professional licensure, unless the alien has a legal immigration status. 8 U.S.C. s. 1621. The Court noted that this law, passed under the federal government’s plenary power to regulate immigration, prohibits Florida from granting undocumented immigrants a license to practice law. While states may take specific action to override this requirement by enacting a state law, the Court noted that the Florida Legislature has not passed any law to avoid application of the federal law (in contrast to California, which did). The Court concluded that the deferred action status granted by the Department of Homeland Security to certain undocumented aliens who meet specific criteria for provisional work permits does not provide the Court grounds to ignore the federal statutory prohibition on granting state licenses to such individuals.