New York’s first undocumented lawyer faces first legal battle: his own probation


Cesar Vargas, who became the first undocumented immigrant in New York to be approved for a law license earlier this month, is now having that privilege delayed because of his civil disobedience related to immigration reform.

Vargas, who disrupted a Republican presidential candidate forum in Iowa in January, was convicted by a local jury for misdemeanor trespassing earlier this year and given a sentence of one-year probation earlier this month, the Des Moines Register reports. Because New York doesn’t swear in new lawyers until they complete their probation, he’ll now have to wait to take on his historic accomplishment.

Vargas and another protester were arrested by police at the Iowa event after interrupting a speech by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Vargas asked him whether he would deport his 70-year-old mother. “I simply went, as the American that I feel I am, to ask my potential president a question that matters to my family,” he told the Register.

The New York ruling that approved him for a law license—one that could set a precedent for other undocumented immigrants around the country—came during Vargas’ trespassing trial in Iowa.

Vargas was hoping to be officially sworn in as a lawyer on June 26, but now the could be delayed up to a year. He has asked the court to let him out of probation early, but local officials disagree. “When you decide to engage in civil disobedience, there are consequences to that,” the prosecutor in the case, John Sarcone, told the Register. “I assume he weighed all his options before he did what he did.”

But Vargas says he was exercising his right to free speech, and that his crime was small enough that it shouldn’t be an issue.

“When they say that I haven’t been rehabilitated, I guess kind of implying that I’m a danger to society, for me it’s unfortunate,” Vargas said.

Casey Tolan is a National News Reporter for Fusion based in New York City.

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