The California Supreme Court held oral arguments today in a case that will ultimately decide if Sergio Garcia can become a licensed attorney. While Garcia has already passed the California Bar Exam, he has hit a roadblock in obtaining his law license because of his citizenship status. Garcia, 36, was born in Mexico, but his parents brought him to the United States when he was only 17 months old. Splitting time between Mexico and California, Garcia decided to permanently stay in California at age 17.
For 19 years now, Garcia has waited to receive a green card. During that time he completed college, finished law school, and passed the California Bar Exam on the first try. However, a 1996 federal law passed by Congress prohibits immigrants residing illegally in the United States from receiving “professional licenses.” The Justice Department further determined that the California Supreme Court cannot admit Garcia to the bar because the court is funded by state money. Interestingly enough, the State Bar of California and the California attorney general are both on the side of Garcia.
While no opinion has been rendered yet, the Associated Press stated that the justices “appeared reluctant Wednesday to grant a law license to Sergio Garcia.” (Source: Washington Post). The court will now have 90 days to rule on the case.
For background on the Garcia case, check out the following sources:
- Is It Legal For Undocumented Immigrant To Practice Law? by Emily Green (NPR)
- Immigrant asks California Supreme Court for law license over US DOJ objections by Associated Press (Washington Post)
- Undocumented immigrant’s bid for California law license heads to court by Cindy Y. Rodriguez and Jaqueline Hurtado (CNN)
- The Supreme Court of California