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Early probation end denied for immigrant seeking law license

July 8, 2015

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A Mexican-born man trying to become one of the few immigrants living in the U.S. illegally to be granted a law license hit an obstacle Wednesday when an Iowa judge refused to prematurely end his probation on a misdemeanor conviction.

Cesar Vargas, who was 5 when his mother brought him to the U.S., was arrested in January for disrupting a speech by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at an event in Des Moines. The immigration activist was convicted in June of trespassing, sentenced to a year of probation and fined $65.

The 31-year-old is applying for a law license in New York, where the bar generally doesn’t grant licenses to people on probation. Vargas asked a judge to end his probation early, and finished all other requirements of his sentence, but the judge refused.

“It would be rare for this court to discharge anybody sooner,” Judge Kevin Parker said.

Polk County prosecutor Jeff Noble said he respected Vargas’ willingness to speak out on principles he believes in, but noted it was unusual for anyone placed on probation for a year to serve less than six months.

After the hearing, Vargas’ attorney, Glen Downey, said the county attorney’s office and the Iowa Department of Corrections routinely allow people to be discharged early.

In January, Vargas interrupted Christie during a gathering arranged by an outspoken opponent of President Barack Obama’s immigration policies. Vargas asked if Christie would support deporting Vargas’ 70-year-old undocumented mother. He was arrested after leaving the event.

Vargas has been allowed to remain and work in the U.S. under Obama’s Deferred Actions for Childhood Arrivals policy initiated in 2012. A New York appeals court in June said he could apply for a law license.

“This is part of the journey,” Vargas said Wednesday. “I don’t regret being delayed.”

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