Utah to be latest to allow 'Dreamers' to practice law

By Brady McCombs
Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah is set to become the latest state to allow immigrant “Dreamers” to practice law under a proposed rule issued Monday by the Utah Supreme Court.

The rule came after a request last year by two women who earned law degrees from Utah universities but couldn’t practice law because they aren’t legal residents of the United States.

They are part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, an initiative implemented during former President Barack Obama’s administration that allows young people brought to the U.S. illegally as children to to remain in this country.

The rule in Utah won’t take effect until a month-long public comment period closes. Utah would join several other states, including New York, California, Pennsylvania, Nebraska, New Jersey, Florida and Wyoming, that have similar rules, said Anthony Kaye, a Utah lawyer who represented the two women who made the request.

The Utah Supreme Court said in a statement that it found it has the authority to create the rule after consulting with the state bar, law professors, the state
attorney general and the state legislative research counsel.

The women, whose names were withheld from the petition, were limited in their employment opportunities in their home state of Utah.

One of the women was limited to doing federal immigration law and the other wasn’t working as an attorney. They had considered moving to California where they are members of the state bar, Kaye said.

“That’s not where they want to be,” Kaye said. “They want to be here with their families.”

Opponents of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program say the law rewards people for breaking the law, encourages illegal immigration and hurts American workers.

To qualify for the 2012 program, young immigrants had to show they entered the U.S. before 2007 and before their 16th birthday. States have been updating rules to allow them to practice law as the groups grows older and gets degrees.

Kaye argued in a 2018 petition that the women and other program participants should’t be punished for decisions made by their parents.

“They are brought as children at the hands of their parents. It is unrealistic to expect children brought to the United States by their parents to leave the only country they have known,” Kaye wrote.

“Many of these young people have already contributed to our country in significant way,” Kaye added.

John Mejia, legal director at the ACLU of Utah, said the rule makes sense considering program participants can already go to college and law school.

“Once this rule goes into effect, it will allow the petitioners and other DACA recipients to realize the professional aspirations they have pursued for many years,” Mejia said.

The U.S. Supreme Court is currently weighing whether to allow the Trump administration to end protections for the estimated 660,000 immigrants to work in the U.S., free from the threat of deportation.

The administration argues that the program is unlawful because Obama did not have the authority to adopt.