California Supreme Court: undocumented immigrants can practice law

Sergio García will be the state's first undocumented lawyer on the State Bar

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SAN FRANCISCO.- The California Supreme Court has ruled in favor of Sergio C. García, an undocumented immigrant seeking to be licensed as a practicing lawyer, after a new state law permitting such cases came into effect on the new year.

The Courts has indirectly also declared the new law constitutional with its ruling and within the state's right to choose who is admitted into the State Bar.

In its opinion, the California Supreme Court wrote that "...In light of the recently enacted state legislation, we conclude that the Committee‟s motion to admit Garcia to the State Bar should be granted. The new legislation removes any potential statutory obstacle to Garcia‟s admission posed by section 1621, and there is no other federal statute that purports to preclude a state from granting a license to practice law to an undocumented immigrant."

That new "recently enacted state legislation" was introduced by state Assemblywoman Lorena González, a Democrat from San Diego, specifically as a legal remedy for Sergio García's case, as well as that of others in the state.

García's story is highlighted in the Court's ruling, specifying that he was brought into the U.S. by his parents at the age of 17 months-old, and lived until 1986 in California, returning to Mexico for a period of time and then coming back in 1994, where he has "resided in California without interruption since 1994. During this period of time, he graduated from high school, attended Butte College, California State University at Chico, and Cal Northern School of Law. He received his law degree from Cal Northern School of Law in May 2009, and took and passed the July 2009 California bar examination."

It is part of a series of pro-undocumented immigrant legislation approved by the state's Democratic controlled Congress and signed by Governor Jerry Brown in October. Those new laws will also prohibi law enforcement officials from arresting immigrats under federal guidelines (except in cases of serious crimes),while another one authorized the state to issue them driver's licenses.

The Court's summarized opinion can be read onlinehere.

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jose.sanchez@sandiegored.com

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