Undocumented Immigrant Wins Case to Obtain Law License

1409592_gavel_2.jpgNearly twenty years ago, Sergio Garcia's parents brought him to the United States from Mexico without valid immigration papers. His father has since become a U.S. permanent resident (green card holder) and filed a green card application for his son in 1995. However, due to the lengthy waiting times for Mexican nationals seeking to obtain a green card, 19 years later Mr. Garcia still does not have permanent residence.

During this interlude, Mr. Garcia has been residing, working, and studying in the U.S., culminating with the obtainment of his law degree from Cal Northern Law School and he passed the California State Bar Exam in 2009, widely considered one of the most difficult bar exams in the country.

However, approximately two weeks after his swearing-in ceremony which officially licensed him to practice law in the state of California, Mr. Garcia received official notice from the state bar informing him that his admission to the bar was an error. The state bar explained that he did not meet actually meet the requirements for licensure to practice law by virtue of his undocumented immigration status. Mr. Garcia appealed the revocation of his law license through all of the levels of the California courts, along the way earning support from the state's Attorney General, the State Bar of Examiners, and immigrant advocate groups.

Perhaps because of this widespread and vocal support for Mr. Garcia, California recently passed a law that specifically allows undocumented immigrants to obtain their law licenses. Once the case came before the California state Supreme Court this week, the court ruled that Mr. Garcia could obtain his law license, relying on this new law as its justification for the ruling.

Mr. Garcia's victory is not only a boon to him but may also beneficially affect similarly situated undocumented immigrants in other states. In Florida and New York, undocumented foreign nationals are also applying for their law licenses and California's state law may provide an example for these states to facilitate their newest law graduates' ability to obtain their licenses.

Critics of the case outcome argue that licensing Mr. Garcia to practice law is not logical, and question how an individual who is present in the U.S. illegally can fully and adequately counsel clients on the law. Additionally, since it can be argued that California passed a new state law largely for the benefit of Mr. Garcia, critics complain that the state is granting individualized relief that is in conflict with federal immigration law. However, despite what the detractors say, undocumented immigrants are very excited and thankful for the chance to apply for their law licenses.

The ruling by the California state Supreme Court is certainly a new step for immigrant rights and will hopefully become precedent for other state courts facing similar cases. However, notwithstanding Mr. Garcia's court victory, unlawful presence in the U.S. is a very, very serious matter and can have long-lasting repercussions on the individual's future immigration opportunities. If you or a loved one are in the U.S. without legal immigration status, it is highly advisable that you speak with a skilled immigration attorney. Contact our office today at 650-293-0270 to speak to a member of our legal team about your case.

Additional Blog Posts

USCIS Announces Provisional I-601 Waiver, Silicon Valley Immigration Lawyer Blog, January 16, 2013
Rare Chance for Spouses of Green Card Holders to Apply for Green Card Without Waiting in a Queue, Silicon Valley Immigration Lawyer Blog, July 18, 2013

Immigration News / by Michelle Gee