Recent Immigration Developments from the States (Jan 2014)

California Permits Undocumented Lawyers to Practice Law

On January 2, 2014, the California Supreme Court ruled that undocumented lawyer Sergio Garcia, who was brought to the U.S. as an infant, should be licensed to practice law in California.  AB 1024, a law passed last fall by the California legislature, paved the way for the court’s unanimous decision. A federal statute restricting undocumented immigrants’ eligibility for a state-provided professional license contains an express exception when a state law affirmatively provides for such eligibility.  According to the court, this is precisely what AB 1024 did.  The court also held that no other federal law precludes California from granting law licenses to undocumented lawyers. While the court suggested that federal laws governing the employment of undocumented individuals may prevent lawyers like Garcia from working at law firms, it recognized other possible uses of a law license including the provision of pro bono legal services. The sponsor of AB 1024 has indicated her willingness to introduce similar legislation as needed to protect the rights of other undocumented professionals with special licensing requirements such as doctors and pharmacists.  Both Florida and New York are also grappling with the issue of undocumented immigrants seeking a license to practice law.   


Undocumented Students Now Eligible for In-State Tuition in New Jersey

New Jersey became the 16th state to enact a law extending in-state tuition to all state residents regardless of immigration status.  On December 20, Governor Christie signed the New Jersey Tuition Equality Act permitting undocumented immigrants who attended for three years and graduated from a New Jersey high school to qualify for in-state tuition at public colleges and universities. For many of the 75,000 undocumented students in New Jersey, the difference between the yearly in-state tuition cost ($11,620) and out-of-state tuition rate ($19,292) could determine whether or not they can pursue their dreams of attending college.  An earlier version of the bill contained a provision making undocumented students eligible for state financial aid, but this section was removed in order to ensure Governor Christie’s signature.  A number of other states are expected to consider tuition equity bills in 2014.    


DACA Recipients in Virginia File Lawsuit Seeking Eligibility for In-State Tuition

Last month, a group of DACA recipients who were denied in-state tuition by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia filed a lawsuit in Arlington County Circuit Court. The students seek a declaration that they are legally eligible to establish Virginia domicile and, thus, can qualify for in-state tuition.  At the community colleges where plaintiffs are currently enrolled, they pay out-of-state tuition rates of 230% to 245% more than the in-state tuition rates. One DACA grantee who came to the U.S. at age 8 currently works 40 hours a week to earn tuition money to study part-time and shares, “I worry about not being able to pay for the next semester at out-of-state tuition rates.” Students and other immigrant advocates will push Virginia legislators to pass a law this year that would expressly authorize in-state tuition for DACA recipients who are state residents. The right of DACA grantees to pay in-state tuition at public institutions of higher education is also being litigated in Georgia and Arizona.


Maryland Becomes First State to Introduce Anti-Detainer Legislation in 2014

On the heels of Connecticut and California which passed TRUST Acts in 2013 limiting local involvement in federal immigration enforcement, Maryland is the first state to consider similar legislation this year.  The Maryland Law Enforcement Trust Act (HB 29) would prevent local police from continuing to hold individuals who are otherwise eligible for release from custody on the basis of an immigration detainer.  It would also prohibit law enforcement from inquiring about the immigration status or birth country of an arrestee or victim of crime.  Finally, the law would permit ICE to interview individuals in state and local custody only after the detainee has signed a written consent form and been offered the opportunity to have a lawyer present. The purpose of the bill is to restore community trust in Maryland law enforcement, and the first hearing is scheduled for January 28 in the Maryland House of Delegates.  In the meantime, advocates are closely monitoring the implementation of the California and Connecticut TRUST Acts, educating immigrants about their rights, and assisting individuals who report violations.  


Miami-Dade County Passes Anti-Detainer Resolution

On a local level, Miami-Dade County has become the latest locality to restrict the circumstances under which it will continue to hold individuals that ICE has placed under immigration detainers.  Pursuant to a unanimous Board of County Commissioners resolution passed on December 3, 2013, Miami-Dade law enforcement officers will honor ICE detainers only after the federal government signs a written agreement to reimburse the County for the costs of compliance and only when the individual has a forcible felony conviction or has been charged with a non-bondable offense. For a complete list of states and localities with measures limiting compliance with ICE detainer requests, please click here.  


Court Rules Documents Must Be Released in Case Challenging Arizona’s SB 1070

On December 11, 2013, a federal District Court judge made a significant ruling in pending litigation alleging that Arizona lawmakers passed SB 1070 with the intent to target and discriminate against Latinos and other racial minorities in violation of the Equal Protection clause of the Constitution. The contested “show me your papers” provision has been in effect since the U.S. Supreme Court declined to block it in June 2012.  It requires police officers to check the immigration status of anyone they arrest or detain whom they believe to be undocumented. According to the federal court, emails and other communications between Arizona lawmakers and two advocacy groups advising them while SB 1070 was being drafted in the state legislature must be released.  The plaintiffs believe that the emails may contain “proof of racially discriminatory intent or purpose in the enactment of SB 1070.”  The two advocacy groups (Federation for American Immigration Reform and the Immigration Reform Law Institute) have asked the judge to reconsider her decision.


Sheriff Arpaio’s Actions Projected to Cost Maricopa County Taxpayers Millions

Last Spring, a federal judge ruled that Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) had engaged in racial profiling by singling out Hispanics at traffic stops.  The County recently released estimates of the anticipated costs to taxpayers of implementing the policy changes ordered by the court. The County believes it will cost $21 million over the next year and a half followed by an additional $10 million annually to pay for the installation of video cameras in MCSO patrol vehicles, train officers on complying with the constitution in making arrests, and cover the salaries for additional MCSO staff. The county has already spent $1.6 million defending MCSO in the litigation and may face an additional $7.3 million in legal fees and costs incurred by the plaintiffs. Despite these exorbitant costs, Sheriff Arpaio, who has appealed last year’s ruling, claims "It was worth the money, and it was worth the effort." 




This document was prepared in January 2014 for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. For questions, please contact CLINIC’s State & Local Advocacy Attorney Jen Riddle at (301) 565-4807 or

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