New Mexico Supreme Court Welcomes Illegal Aliens as Licensed Attorneys

New Mexico Supreme Court Welcomes Illegal Aliens as Licensed Attorneys
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham addresses the virtual Democratic National Convention on Aug. 19, 2020. (DNCC via Getty Images)
Matthew Vadum

The Supreme Court of the State of New Mexico has determined in a unanimous policy decision that illegal aliens will be allowed to practice in the state as attorneys—a decision a conservative legal critic called “bizarre.”

In a new set of rules governing admission to the bar (pdf), approved on Aug. 19, the court held that a lack of U.S. citizenship or immigration status may no longer be used to deny a law license to individuals holding a law degree and otherwise qualifying for membership in the New Mexico Bar Association. In issuing the order, the court concurred with changes recommended by the Board of Bar Examiners and the Code of Professional Conduct Committee.

“The change in the licensure rule is grounded in the fundamental principle of fairness, and is consistent with New Mexico’s historical values of inclusion and diversity in its culture,” Chief Justice C. Shannon Bacon, a Democrat, said in a statement.

Every member of the court is a Democrat. Justice Michael Vigil was elected to the court and assumed office in late 2018. All the other members, including Bacon, were appointed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat.

“New Mexico is aligned with at least eight other states that allow attorney licensure for some immigrants, and the American Bar Association has endorsed the principle of permitting attorneys to practice law regardless of immigration status,” Bacon said.

The court document itself states that the usual requirements to practice law shall remain in force, but a license “shall not be denied based solely on the applicant’s citizenship or immigration status.”

Apart from immigration status, an applicant for a law license must still be law-abiding, including being in compliance with all child-support and spousal-support obligations imposed by a court.

Policy advocate Jazmin Irazoqui-Ruiz of the New Mexico Immigrant Law Center became an attorney in New Mexico in 2017 under special rules allowing certain illegal aliens to obtain law licenses. She was brought to the country as a minor but allowed to remain in the United States under former President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Irazoqui-Ruiz told Las Cruces Sun News that the rule change was a “great victory” that will protect her law license even if the Supreme Court eventually strikes down DACA. “I personally dedicated my career to doing exactly what this type of policy change does: Removing barriers to economic mobility and stability for immigrant families across our state,” she told the newspaper.

Legal commentator Curt Levey, president of the Committee for Justice, said the Supreme Court of the State of New Mexico’s decision seemed more “political” than “legal.”

“It strikes me as interesting that the Chief Justice issued a statement,” Levey told The Epoch Times. “Normally, the majority opinion would speak for itself.”

The decision is “really about policy—our state has values of inclusion and diversity.”

The ruling is based “on policy, which is the definition of judicial activism. Judicial activism is when you come up with an outcome-oriented decision based on the policies preferred by the judge or judges, rather than the law,” he said.

It is “bizarre” that in New Mexico “you can be here illegally, subject to arrest and deportation, and yet at the same time, you could be representing as a lawyer another illegal alien who’s facing the same thing.”

Levey’s nonprofit describes itself as “devoted to restoring the Founders’ vision of a federal judiciary governed by the rule of law and anchored by the Constitution.”