Cesar Vargas is Sworn in as One of NY’s First DACAmented Lawyers
Contact: Christiaan Perez, [email protected], 212-739-7581
César Vargas, who was brought to the United States from Mexico when he was 5 years old and eventually graduated from law school, was sworn in as a lawyer today more than four years after passing the bar. Cesar was one of the first DREAMers to graduate from law school and apply for bar admission in New York State.
César, 32, graduated from James Madison High School in Brooklyn, then went on to graduate from St. Francis College. He eventually graduated from the City University of New York School of Law. He passed the bar exam in 2014. His bar admission was held up while New York State judges debated whether an undocumented person could get a law license. Vargas was approved for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in 2013.
“This is an important day for all New Yorkers, all DREAMERs nationwide, and for Cesar Vargas and his family who supported him steadfastly as he pursued his dream to become a lawyer. But it is also a significant accomplishment for the New York State Judiciary which affirmed its exclusive role in determining who is fit to practice law within the Empire State even when challenged by the federal government. It was a duty it discharged admirably in the case of Mr. Vargas,” said Juan Cartagena, President and General Counsel of LatinoJustice PRLDEF. “LatinoJustice PRLDEF is proud to be counsel to such a promising legal advocate. Felicidades Cesar!
Last year, a five-judge panel in New York ruled that César could be admitted to practice law. The unanimous decision was a win for DREAMers, who have faced some tough opposition in Congress and the courts. The state panel faced a rather simple question: Does the fact of Vargas’s undocumented status reflect in any way on his “character and fitness” to practice law in New York? The court ruled conclusively:
“We find that the undocumented status of an individual applicant does not, alone, suggest that the applicant is not possessed of the qualities that enable attorneys to vigorously defend their client's interests within the bounds of the law, nor does it suggest that the applicant cannot protect, as an officer of the court, the rule of law and the administration of justice.”
The judges reached this conclusion rather easily. They deferred to the bar committee’s “stellar” rating of Vargas, determined that he met all the statutory requirements to become an attorney, and found “no rational basis” that his immigration status “reflects adversely on his competence to practice law in the State of New York.”
Cesar received the written support from prominent members of Congress members including U.S. Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL), Rep. Nydia Velazquez, Rep. Luis Gutierrez, and Kings County District Attorney Charles J. Hynes (Letters will be made public tomorrow). He also received support from the CUNY Law School Dean Michelle Anderson, and many other judges, professors and activists.