DACA recipients will be allowed admission to New Mexico Bar Association

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — This week, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled immigration status can no longer be a reason to deny someone admission to the state bar association.

The New Mexico Immigrant Law Center has been advocating for this change since 2017. They say this is a victory for hundreds of immigrants who wish to practice law in the place they call home, including the state’s first DACAmented Lawyer.

Jazmin Irazoqui-Ruiz passed the bar back in 2017 but that didn’t guarantee she would be allowed to practice law.

“I had standing to petition admission to the New Mexico state bar but because of the political context the recession of DACA I was initially denied my admission and I watched my class get sworn in on October of 2017,” Irazoqui-Ruiz said.

With the help of other attorneys and the New Mexico Dream team, Irazoqui-Ruiz was admitted to the bar association by the end of 2017. Ever since, she has been pushing to make the process easier for her fellow Dreamers.

“I initially set out to pursue a legal career to dismantle barriers for my community and I along with the New Mexico dream team and the NMILC strongly believed that work should be led directly impacted individuals,” Irazoqui-Ruiz said.

Thanks to their work over the years, the New Mexico legislature passed laws to eliminate citizenship requirements for state-run licensing programs – for nearly everything but the bar.

But now, the state supreme court says immigration status cannot deny admission to the state bar to practice law in New Mexico.

“I almost fell out of my chair,” Irazoqui-Ruiz said, “I think the first thing was shock then I think it was relief because we had some individuals who sat for the bar exam this last July who would be impacted by this rule.”

That includes fellow DACA recipient and law student Luis Leyva-Castillo.

“I was obviously very exciting it’s one of those news that we have been working on for a while and being able to see that our hard work was reflective by the change by the New Mexico supreme court we are opening up the opportunities not only for me but also for everyone who comes behind me,” Leyva-Castillo said.

However, not everyone is as excited for this change.

The New Mexico Republican Party sent out this statement from Steve Pearce, state GOP chairman, after the ruling:

“New Mexico’s high court has become authoritarian and appears to be operating outside the limits of its power, this latest rule will open our borders even more, and the court seems to relish making arbitrary decisions without thinking about consequences.”

“We expected pushback just like there is push back when any policy is passed and the one thing that I do want to stress is that this is grounded in law there is a federal statute that allows access to professional and occupational licensing,” Irazoqui-Ruiz said.

New Mexico isn’t the first state to make this change.

“Eight other states have done the same so we are not the only state to do it its not something that isn’t allowable in law ultimately it is New Mexico tapping into the talent that is home grown,” Irazoqui-Ruiz said.

The ruling will go into effect on Oct. 1, 2022. Many of the new DACAmented lawyers like Luis Leyva-Castillo have jobs lined up already.