Undocumented Immigrant Becomes Licensed Attorney - NBC Southern California

Undocumented Immigrant Becomes Licensed Attorney

A woman who came with her parents to the US from Venezuela became an attorney

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    Undocumented Immigrant Becomes Licensed Attorney

    Vanessa Pumar immigrated to the United States from Venezuela with her family when she was 12. Now she's a licensed attorney. John Cádiz Klemack reports for the NBC4 News at 5 and 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015. (Published Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015)

    Vanessa Pumar says she was a junior in college when she felt her calling come knocking.

    "In my naive mind, I thought I'm gonna give my parents their Green Card," she says. "It can't be that difficult."

    Pumar had come with her parents to the United States from Venezuela when she was 12 years old.

    Years later as her family was navigating immigration courts, she says a weak attorney nearly sent them packing.

    She took the LSAT and passed; she applied to Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles and was accepted; she graduated and took the California State Bar Exam and passed; and at 1 p.m. on Friday, she'll swear an oath to uphold the constitution as a licensed immigration attorney.

    "Now is the time," Pumar says, a recipient of Deferred Action for Child Arrivals which allows her to work legally in the U.S., "I did what I could within the system Congress created."

    But Pumar says she knows there are some who will say being in this country without the proper documentation is in and of itself a crime.

    "Immigration laws are very punitive," she says. "So if there were immigration reform or if the laws were fair, I wouldn't be in this situation."

    She's not the first undocumented immigrant to be given a license to practice law in California.

    Sergio Garcia took an oath a year ago in Sacramento, but she is the first to do so as a DACA recipient and she says she will continue to fight for immigration reform.

    "I don't think there is a greater act of civil disobedience than an undocumented lawyer representing another undocumented immigrant facing removal from the United States," Pumar says.

    Pumar has agreed to work as a legal representative for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, saying she's proud to now serve the community she remains a part of.

    And while things could always change if Congress attempts to curb President Obama's executive order, Pumar's state license wouldn't be affected.

    "Congress just needs to understand that we're here to help and stop blaming us for everything that goes wrong in this country," she says.