An undocumented immigrant who came to the U.S. as an infant, completed law school and passed the California state bar exam may be denied a license to practice. The California Supreme Court is currently considering the case of Sergio Garcia, a 36 year old native of Mexico. The U.S. Justice Department has already stated that Garcia is not eligible for a law license under a 1996 federal law that bars undocumented aliens from obtaining professional licenses, but the California Supreme Court could ignore these federal declarations if the state legislature takes action in the next 90 days.
As a longtime immigration attorney, I understand the immense time and effort that Mr. Garcia expended to try to become a lawyer. In this particular case, despite federal prohibitions, Mr. Garcia may benefit from the swirling debate about immigration reform. If the California legislature were to make a political statement, then Mr. Garcia may receive a law license.
Garcia was brought to the U.S. as an infant but traveled between the U.S. and Mexico until he was 17 when he permanently began to reside in the U.S. He attended community college while working at a grocery store. He attended Cal Northern School of Law in Chico and passed the state bar exam on his first attempt, something only about half of all law school graduates accomplish.
Sergio Garcia’s case is currently under consideration by the California Supreme Court which has yet to issue a ruling. The justices on the court, however, have made statements that strongly indicate they will not rule in Garcia’s favor because federal law prohibits licensing undocumented immigrants. This law specifies that any governmental entity that receives public money from licensing persons without legal status. lawyer on behalf of Garcia have argued that the attorney licensing is funded not by public money but by dues paid by attorney in the state.
There is some debate about whether Garcia could even practice if he were to obtain a law license. Some legal experts contend that Garcia could not legally represent clients in legal matters due to his continuing violation of federal immigration laws. Garcia would have to work independently because no law firm could legally hire him.
Garcia has stated that should the California Supreme Court decide not to grant him a license, he will continue to fight to obtain his license. He will have to work through the state legislature to change current laws or perhaps take his case to the federal courts.
Having served as an immigration attorney for many years, I recognize that Mr. Garcia’s plight is not entirely just, but his case may shine a spotlight on the much larger issue of how to deal with the almost 11 million undocumented immigrants currently residing in the U.S. Many are like Garcia who has worked hard to serve as self-sufficient, contributing members of American society.
Lyttle Law Firm, PLLC provides legal advice to clients in the fields of immigration and family law. To learn how Lyttle Law Firm may be able to help you with your legal problems, please call (512) 215-5225.