A Staten Island man has become the first undocumented immigrant in the state to get his law license, even though he is not in this country legally. NY1's Amanda Farinacci filed the following report.
Tears streaming down his cheeks, 32-year-old Cesar Vargas described his emotions as he was sworn in before a judge, the first undocumented immigrant in New York to receive a law license.
"It's, it was an amazing moment, Vargas said. "It felt like the day was never going to come."
Vargas passed the bar exam in 2011 but was denied the right to practice. The bar committee said his character was "stellar" but that it couldn't recommend him for a license bcause of his immigration status.
Vargas sued, and in June, a five-judge panel ruled he can be admitted to practice law in New York.
"I can practice. I can represent clients. I can write in my business card, 'Attorney at Law,'" Vargas said.
Vargas and his mother fled Mexico after his father died. He was just 5 years old. He attended public school in Brooklyn, put himself through college and then CUNY Law School.
He became a visible advocate for so-called DREAMers, immigrants who entered the U.S. illegally as children and continue to live here without legal status.
Vargas made headlines confronting outspoken Rep. Steve King about the Iowa congressman's opposition to an Obama administration policy granting temporary work permits immigrant children.
That he's now a lawyer sets a precedent for other undocumented immigrants to practice law in New York, joining Florida and California in allowing such a policy.
"Even when challenged by the federal government, this judiciary of the State of New York said, 'We are the ones who decide,'" said Juan Cartajena, president of Latino Justice. "They, of course decided that Cesar was fit, and we are very happy for him."
As for what's next for Vargas, he is currently working on Bernie Sanders presidential campaign and says he plans to use his career as a lawyer to help other immigrants just like him.