Bar Admission for Undocumented Law School Graduates

Appeal from the denial of bar admission on behalf of an undocumented law school graduate with DACA status.

Court/Assoc.: Pennsylvania Board of Law Examiners

Attorneys/Firms: Molly Tack-Hooper (ACLU-PA); Fred Magaziner, Rhiannon DiClemente (Dechert LLP); Samuel C. Stretton (Law Office of Samuel Stretton); Alexander Shalom (ACLU-NJ)

Parthiv Patel was brought to the United States when he was five years old and has lived in the United States continuously since then. Like many Dreamers, the United States is the only home he remembers. Growing up, he worked hard, paid taxes, and stayed out of trouble. He didn’t learn that he was undocumented until he applied to college. Through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program created by President Obama in 2012, Parthiv was able to get protection against deportation and work authorization through August 2018 and enrolled in law school. 

Parthiv graduated from Drexel University’s Thomas R. Kline School of Law in May 2016. That summer, he passed the Pennsylvania bar exam but was denied admission to the bar based on his immigration status. The ACLU of Pennsylvania and cooperating counsel appealed his denial to the Board of Law Examiners, arguing that the Board has complete authority to regulate the legal profession and should admit all qualified candidates for the bar regardless of their immigration status. As part of his appeal, the Board of Law Examiners received letters calling for his admission from six Pennsylvania law schools, two Pennsylvania bar associations, the Ethics Bureau at Yale, the City of Philadelphia, and the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition (PICC).

On November 21, 2017, the board recommended Mr. Patel’s admission to the bar.  He was sworn in on December 18, 2017.

On September 5, 2017, Attorney General Sessions announced that he was ending the DACA program and that the administration was no longer accepting new applications for DACA status. Currently, Dreamers whose DACA status and work authorization expire on or before March 5, 2018, are eligible to apply for a two-year renewal if their renewal paperwork is received by October 5, 2017. But Dreamers whose DACA status and work authorization expire after March 5, 2018, are not eligible for renewal.  

When Parthiv’s DACA status expires on August 9, 2018, he could be deported from the only country he knows and ripped away from his family. Even if he is not picked up for deportation, without work authorization or legal status, his employment options and his ability to put his law degree to use serving the community will also be substantially limited.  

Click here to contact your Member of Congress and ask them to co-sponsor clean, standalone legislation to protect Dreamers like Parthiv, their families, and their communities. 

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