Moral Low Ground

US Government

California Supreme Court: Undocumented Immigrant Sergio Garcia Can Practice Law

January 3, 2014 by Brett Wilkins in Courts, Immigration with 0 Comments

California’s Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that a Mexican immigrant living illegally in the state may be licensed as a lawyer.

The Los Angeles Times reports the state high court affirmed a law passed by the state legislature late last year which authorized the Supreme Court, which finalizes requests of individuals seeking to become attorneys, to admit all qualified applicants regardless of immigration status.

The plaintiff in the case, 36-year-old Sergio C. Garcia, had been denied a law license under federal restrictions. According to federal law, undocumented immigrants must be denied professional licenses unless state governments pass laws overriding the ban. California passed AB-1024 to address this issue.

“We conclude that the fact that an undocumented immigrant’s presence in this country violates federal statutes is not itself a sufficient or persuasive basis for denying undocumented immigrants, as a class, admission to the State Bar,” Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye wrote.

Garcia will now be free to practice law, although technically he cannot be administered the oath or receive money from clients under federal law.

“We assume that a licensed undocumented immigrant will make all necessary inquiries and take appropriate steps to comply with applicable legal restrictions and will advise potential clients of any possible adverse or limiting effect the attorney’s immigration status may pose,” the court said.

Garcia’s family illegally entered the United States when he was 17 months old. He was approved for a Green Card 19 years ago, but he is still on the waiting list. He graduated from Durham High School in Butte County, California before attending Cal State Chico and then Cal Northern School of Law in Chico. He passed the California Bar exam, considered the most difficult in the nation, on his first attempt before passing the mandatory moral character determination. His law license application was sent to the state Supreme Court for approval, but the court opted to review his case due to his immigration status. Garcia has been waiting four years for his law license.

“This is my life’s dream come true,” Garcia told NPR last October after AB-1024 passed. He added that he is “going for United States citizenship next.”

“I want to be a full part of this country,” he added.

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