Problems for illegal immigrant attorneys

I read an article in the January 2013 ABA Journal about the “Dream Bar,” law school graduates who are illegal immigrants and seek to be admitted to practice as attorneys in various states. I am conflicted on this issue.

On one hand, the child of an illegal immigrant did not fail to follow immigration law, so should he/she pay for the sins of the parent or other relatives? It is easy to feel for the plight of these incredible law graduates who have a lot to offer and will undoubtedly be a great asset to the legal community. They really are trying to do everything right and have unfortunate circumstances to bear.

However, the article discussed whether public policy should favor inclusion in these circumstances on the basis of “state or local benefit.” Are attorneys any more of a benefit to the public at large than other professions? I am not convinced they are and point to the over-abundance of attorneys nation-wide. More importantly, I am not sure I favor a “free pass” for relatives of illegal immigrants because it only provides a tangible benefit that will inevitably encourage non-compliance with immigration laws. I am not opposed to immigration; in fact I am married to a non-citizen, and my legal practice includes immigration work. I favor immigration and free movement between countries as long as all of the rules are followed. “Cheating” is not something that sits well with me in most situations. If illegal immigrants are ware that they are harming the future of not only themselves, but spouses, children and other relatives, I believe they will be more likely to comply.

The article also discusses how there are different types of out of status immigrants and this should play a role in the decision making process. As attorneys, we pledge to uphold the law. If we are not in compliance, I am not convinced it matters much how or why. In other situations, it is black and white – you are or are not in compliance with the law. I do recognize the inherent irony in admitting a law breaker to the group of law enforcing professionals.

This situation is a difficult one, for so many reasons. I am not sure how to feel. Can you persuade me one way or the other?