NEW YORK – In a unique move, a ‘Dreamer’ from India took the oath of admission enabling him to practice law in New Jersey, in a ceremony administered by New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal and with Governor Phil Murphy at his side, in Trenton, on Wednesday.
Parthiv Patel, a graduate of Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law who hopes to use his law degree to serve others, is among the first recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) to be admitted to practice law in New Jersey.
The governor also announced at the swearing-in that New Jersey is seeking to join the lawsuit with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and 15 other attorneys general to protect undocumented young people, according to a press release.
“For the chief law enforcement officer of my home state to administer the pledge to uphold the law and Constitution, and for the governor to be in attendance, the only word I can use is humbling,” said Patel, in a statement. “The process of getting admitted to practice law has been daunting, but today’s ceremony is a reminder of the reason I’ve strived so hard to become a lawyer: to use my training and abilities to uplift others. In a climate of anxiety, it’s a comfort to know that we Dreamers are not alone in this fight.”
Patel, who was brought to the United States from India at age 5, received DACA in 2012, granting him authorization to work in the United States. After graduating from law school, Patel passed the bar exams of both New Jersey and Pennsylvania in July 2016.
“No one should face barriers to serving the greater good because of where they were born,” said Amol Sinha, executive director of the ACLU-NJ, which represented Patel in his application for admission to the New Jersey Bar, in a statement. “Parthiv is a son of New Jersey, and his story fits squarely in the American Dream. While other forces in the country put obstacles in the path of talented, driven young Americans like Parthiv, New Jersey shows how much we benefit when we lift up each other’s dreams rather than thwart them. I am honored to witness his admission to the practice of law in our home state and to call him a colleague in the bar.”
Patel’s application for bar admission stalled when the Pennsylvania Board of Law Examiners notified him that his immigration status made him ineligible. Patel appealed with help from the ACLU of Pennsylvania and several cooperating attorneys. On Dec. 18, 2017, he was admitted to the Pennsylvania Bar. The ACLU-NJ represented him in seeking acceptance to the New Jersey Bar, and he recently received word that he would be admitted here.
“Parthiv’s long wait for bar admission shows the type of obstacles that Dreamers are up against, and at the same time, his determination and altruistic spirit in the face of uncertainty demonstrate the best that New Jersey and America have to offer,” said ACLU-NJ Senior Supervising Attorney Alexander Shalom, who worked on advocacy related to Patel’s case. “A decision that was made for him in kindergarten should have no bearing on his ability to give back to your community as an adult. Parthiv will be a great addition to the profession.”
A 1996 federal statute prohibits states from conferring certain professional licenses on undocumented immigrants unless the state affirmatively opts out of that prohibition. Several states, including New York, Florida, and California, have subsequently granted law licenses to Dreamers, young men and women who were brought to the United States as children and who, until the DACA program, had no path available to apply for legal documentation in the United States.
“Parthiv Patel is just one of many ‘Dreamers’ who contribute in countless ways to American society. It is high time for Congress to pass a clean Dream Act to create a path to citizenship for people like Mr. Patel,” said Molly Tack-Hooper, staff attorney at the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “Parthiv is an American success story. We should celebrate him and do all we can to keep him here, not deport him.”
Patel was represented in New Jersey by the ACLU of New Jersey and in Pennsylvania by the ACLU of Pennsylvania, along with Fred Magaziner and Rhiannon DiClemente of Dechert LLP and Samuel Stretton.