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Iowa Judge Refuses to End DREAMer Cesar Vargas’ Probation Early

First Posted: Jul 09, 2015 03:01 PM EDT
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This article has been updated

Activist Cesar Vargas's struggle to become an attorney has been dealt another blow after an Iowa judge refused to end his probation early, which would have allowed him to enter the New York State bar. 

DREAM Action Coalition announced in a press release Judge Kevin Parker's decision against ending Vargas' probation early despite meeting all the requirements needed under Iowa law.

Vargas was sentenced to one-year probation after being found guilty of trespassing following a protest at an event hosted by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa). Vargas called on New Jersey Governor Chris Christie as he gave a speech.

Vargas' attorney, Glen Downy, argued the immigration activist and co-director of DREAM Action Coalition had met all probation requirements under Iowa Code 907.9 for early release. Vargas did not seek special treatment, Downy argued, but rather sought to enact the right to request early release available to all.

However, neither the judge nor Polk County, Iowa prosecutors agreed with Vargas' case. The prosecutor argued during the hearing that Vargas had inconvenienced the state of Iowa by demanding a jury trial and special treatment despite Downy's arguments to the contrary. The judge also refused to hear some evidence supporting Vargas' case.

"It felt that letters of support presented weren't considered, nor the fact that I fulfilled all the probation requirements (paid fines), nor the issues of justice," Vargas told Latin Post via email. "The judge decided that he had never released anyone early before and thus won't do it this time."

In the press release, Vargas decried the prosecutor's assertion that Vargas, by seeking a trial, had inconvenienced the state. 

"Sadly justice did not prevail today. I could be contributing more as an attorney," Vargas said. "It is even more unfortunate for the prosecutor to say that requesting a jury trial is an inconvenience to the state. I am not sorry the Constitution is an inconvenience to the prosecutor. I am not a danger to society."

When reached for comment, the Polk County Attorney's Office told Latin Post they do not comment on specific cases. However, they addressed Vargas' comments on the trial's inconvenience.

"The procedures associated with protecting the constitutional rights afforded a criminal defendant involve costs and inconveniences; they are inconveniences we enthusiastically accept and embrace," said Jeff Noble, Intake Division Bureau Chief, in an email to Latin Post.

"Inconvenience in this context is not bad. It is, however, reasonable to consider those costs and inconveniences when any criminal defendant asks for special treatment because of the inconveniences associated with being found guilty of a crime," he explained further.

Despite this set back, Vargas remains hopeful he will be an attorney in New York. He told Latin Post the state of New York still has the ability to approve his admission.

The New York Supreme Court's Committees on Character & Fitness at the Second Judicial Department did not immediately respond to a request for a comment.

Vargas made headlines in June when the Second Department Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court approved his application to the New York State Bar. He was set to become the first DREAMer to become an attorney.

DREAM Action Coalition had started a petition asking the judge and Polk County Attorney's Office to end Vargas' probation early. Among the signatories was New York City Councilman Carlos Menchaca, who also penned a letter in Vargas' behalf with other community leaders.

Yet, all these efforts were in vain, but in the face of all this, Vargas remains optimistic, saying: "I lost the Iowa fight, but, hopefully, in New York we'll win."

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