U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor's special guest to President Obama's State of the Union on Feb. 12 is Jose Godinez-Samperio, who has been profiled over the past year in the media as an example of a local student who has achieved academic success, despite many obstacles, but now is unable to pursue his professional career because of his undocumented status.
"The lack of a path to citizenship for Jose and other 'Dream Act' students like him is harmful to America's economy and our community", said Castor. "We need common-sense immigration reform, and Jose's story help explains why. I am thrilled to have him join me for President Obama's State of the Union address."
Mr. Godinez-Samperio is an academic overachiever who was valedictorian of his 2004 graduating class of Armwood High School in Hillsborough County, Fla.; graduated with an anthropology degree from New College in Sarasota, Fla.; and graduated with a law degree from Florida State University in Tallahassee, Fla.
At age 9, Mr. Godinez-Samperio came with his parents and sister to Hillsborough County, Fla. from Pachuca, Mexico. Until recently he was unable to obtain a driver's license, standard student loans (such as Bright Futures) or paid employment. In late 2012, Mr. Godinez-Samperio was granted "deferred action" and has since received his driver's license and a work permit. Deferred action is a process of relief from deportation proceedings that became available last year for individuals who were brought to the United States as young children, meet certain criteria and do not present a risk to national security or public safety.
Although he has passed the bar exam, he has been unable to achieve entry into the Florida Bar to pursue his dream of practicing immigration law because of his undocumented status. The fate of his professional future currently lies with the Florida Supreme Court.
"Say yes to citizenship, say yes to a new immigration system, say yes to family unity, say yes to me," said Mr. Godinez-Samperio.
"We have a stake in Jose because we've already invested in him," Rep. Castor said. "Deferred action has helped many immigrants who know no other home, but a pathway to permanent residency and citizenship is needed."
Rep. Castor has been a staunch advocate of immigration reform that provides a tough, but fair pathway to citizenship. This not only benefits immigrants, but all Americans because it upholds this country's legacy as a nation of immigrants and brings significant economic benefits.
Rep. Castor supports immigration reform principles adopted by the House Hispanic Caucus, including:
Protecting the unity and sanctity of the family;
Attracting the best and brightest investors, innovators and skilled professionals; and to
Require the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States to register with the federal government, submit to fingerprinting and a criminal background check, learn English and American civics, and pay taxes to contribute fully and legally to our economy and earn a path to permanent residency and eventual citizenship.