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California grants law license to undocumented immigrant

By Jason Dearen

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 09:07 a.m. HST, Jan 02, 2014

SAN FRANCISCO » The California Supreme Court granted a law license on today to a man living in the United States illegally who graduated from law school and passed the state bar exam.

The decision means Sergio Garcia can begin practicing law despite his immigration status.

Garcia had challenged a 1996 federal law that bars people living in the country illegally from receiving professional licenses from government agencies or with the use of public funds, unless state lawmakers vote otherwise.

Shortly after the court heard arguments in the case, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a state law that authorized the granting of the license. The new law went into effect Jan. 1.

Garcia arrived in the U.S. illegally 20 years ago to pick almonds with his father and worked at a grocery store and in the fields while attending school.

The case has pitted the Obama administration, which opposes licensing Garcia, against state officials who have supported him.

The Obama position in the case came as a surprise to some, since it adopted a program that shields people who were brought to the U.S. as children, graduated from high school and have kept a clean criminal record from deportation and allows them to legally work in the country.

At a hearing in September a majority of the state Supreme Court justices appeared reluctant to grant Garcia the license, saying the law prohibits them from doing so unless the Legislature acts.

The court is in charge of licensing attorneys in California.

Lawyers for the federal government argued that Garcia was barred from receiving his license because the court's budget is funded by public money.

But Garcia said his case is about showing other immigrants that hard work and dedication mean something in the U.S.

Garcia, 36, worked in the fields and at a grocery store before attending community college. He became a paralegal, went to law school and passed the bar on his first try. He applied for citizenship in 1994, and is still working toward that goal.

His effort has been supported by State Bar officials and California's attorney general, who argued that citizenship status is not a requirement to receive a California law license.

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nodaddynotthebelt wrote:
Although it is inherently wrong to give a license to do business, basically, in the United States to an illegal immigrant, the problem here is how this situation has gone for so long for this individual. His citizenship should have been resolved many, many years ago. This situation in itself shows how pretty bad our system is. Although he a contributing member of society, he is still considered an illegal immigrant. This area of the citizenship application should obviously be fixed. As far as issuing a license to illegal immigrants, it sends the wrong message to the people that you can just cross the border because you can still get a license to do business in the United States. Ironically, it is being done by a state that is on the border. This kind of action by California just underscores the problems that they are having.
on January 2,2014 | 08:52AM
Charliegrunt wrote:
Wow! God help us! As with all great nations, there comes a point when their time comes to an end, and it looks like we're rapidly heading that way. We now have all three branches of government that are incompetent and ineffective. How can a person start with an ILLEGAL act, arrive at anything LEGAL that stems from that initial illegal act? So, if we carry this rationale further, it means that if a person commits a robbery and uses the stolen money to invest in a business, that business becomes legal? Auwe noho'i e!
on January 2,2014 | 09:26AM
eoe wrote:
Yes their time comes to an end when they cling to the vestiges of a mythic past and do not embrace the best and brightest resources available, and instead make legalistic arguments that cover their true opposition - brown skin makes you uncomfortable.
on January 2,2014 | 09:43AM
RichardCory wrote:
"Wow! God help us! As with all great nations, there comes a point when their time comes to an end, and it looks like we're rapidly heading that way."

Really? This is the story that leads you to that conclusion? Okay, yeah, forget about the fact that the NSA has been raping the Constitution for the past decade. Instead, the evidence of our collapsing democracy exists in the fact that a person can achieve the professional status of a lawyer through hard work and dedication despite their undocumented status? Your ideas would be hilarious if they weren't so sad.
on January 2,2014 | 10:44AM
Charliegrunt wrote:
If you and eoe re-read my comment very carefully and focus, you might better understand my point. While addressing this one issue, the focus is on the THREE BRANCHES OF GOVERNMENT. Specifying that now the THIRD is joining the other two. By the way eoe, your prejudice is showing. I have brown skin.
on January 2,2014 | 01:48PM
EducatedLocalBoy wrote:
RichardCory, I agree with your assessment of the NSA's violation of Constitutional 4th Amendment rights as being horrendous, especially since the NSA has been illegally tapping our phones, etc. since the enactment of the wiretap law in 1968. However, 2 wrongs don't make a right. The illegal alien Garcia didn't work all that hard. CNN reports that he went to Cal. Northern School of Law, which is NOT accredited by the American Bar Association. This means that he can take the lawyers' test (bar exam) only in California. In California a person does NOT have to go to law school to be eligible to take the bar exam. In California, a high school drop out can become a lawyer if he passes the bar exam. Of course, the likelihood of a high school drop out passing the bar exam is practically nil.
on January 2,2014 | 05:06PM
honopic wrote:
Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't lawyers sworn to uphold the law? That means all laws, including immigration laws. If a lawyer commits a crime, he is subject to loss of his license to practice law. While I appreciate Mr. Garcia's "hard work and dedication" the fact is, until he attains legal-resident status, he is an admitted law-breaker, which should prevent him from being granted a law license.
on January 2,2014 | 10:30AM
Bdpapa wrote:
You nailed it
on January 2,2014 | 01:16PM
Surfer_Dude wrote:
This is sick. This guy is an illegal alien and a criminal. You can spin this anyway you want, but the fact remains he is still here illegally. Instead of giving him a law degree, ICE should deport him asap. Think about this.....how did he get this far in the system without proper docs? If they were fake, then that's a felony too. No way he has a real ssn. Those are only given to resident aliens and citizens. Send this guy back to his country of origin and let him apply for citizenship like the rest of our legal immigrants do.
on January 2,2014 | 10:31AM
samidunn wrote:
Undocumented liberalize for illegal. How do you justify a criminal as a officer of the court?
on January 2,2014 | 11:06AM
stingray65 wrote:
What heck is the difference? We have a president with a questionable Citizenship,and birth certificate, why not just give this guy a legal license ? Now that it is legal in Hawaii for same sex marriage, might as well legalize the use of Marijuana! That way we can generate more taxes in the States since the rail system is on the go !! We need that tax money later..
on January 2,2014 | 11:48AM
kuewa wrote:
Under what bridge do you live?
on January 2,2014 | 12:24PM
kuewa wrote:
Some of the comments are not quite understanding the complexity of this situation, preferring instead to turn this into a political issue. Mr. Garcia was brought here as a child by his parents, who were hired by a US business to harvest crop. Since the US does not have a guest worker program per se, the US employer and Mr. Garcia's parents likely broke immigration and employment laws. It is less clear whether a child who is subject to an involuntary border crossing is guilty of a crime. Even if his parents were granted amnesty under a previous program, it would likely not have extended to the minor child, leaving the child in limbo. Yes, Mr. Garcia could have moved back to Mexico, but meanwhile he completed high school, college and law school in the US in an exemplary manner in the govt subsidized US educational system, and has been a contributing member of society, spending more than half his life and all of his adult life in the US. Is it fair to penalize him now for the actions of his parents and their employer? This is the type of issue that hopefully be addressed under comprehensive immigration reform. Although the President has expressed his support for granting such individuals a pathway to citizenship, until such reform is passed, the Federal govt is mandated to defend current law when court cases arise; so it is no surprise that the Fed govt played prosecutor in this case. And for those of you who are still wondering why we need immigrant labor, one large California grower put out an open call for US job applicants and received only one inquiry. The reality is that much of our food and the lower cost of our food is largely due to immigrant labor, legal or otherwise.
on January 2,2014 | 12:39PM
Bdpapa wrote:
Too bad we can't get all of our village idiots to work for these farmers. But, then again, the immigrants are much better workers.
on January 2,2014 | 01:19PM
kuewa wrote:
Generally true, as illustrated by our own plantation history. And after the immigrant era, it was the high school and college kids working the pineapple fields, not to mention the kids working the coffee farms in Kona Good income and good work training, but all that ended with the child labor laws and unionization of workers. Doesn't leave many options in terms of farm workers since most US citizens would either not consider that line of work or have none of the basic ability and skills for manual labor.
on January 2,2014 | 01:33PM
thanks4reading wrote:
I have the unique perspective of being an immigrant, licensed attorney in California, and to have practiced immigration law for over 20 years in California. The US Supreme Court has found unconstitutional a U.S. citizenship requirement for admission to an attorney bar. A US Citizen parent may petition for permanent resident status child over age 21, but there is a quota restriction which is very long especially for those born in Mexico. Once the quota is reached, the alien may be required to depart the US to apply for his "green card" at a foreign U.S. post Once outside the U.S., the alien likely would be prohibited from returning to the US for 10 years (but there are waivers). There is a current executive order barring the deportation of certain undocumented immigrants (Garcia would likely qualify) which would grant the covered class of aliens a work permit and SS number. Having a work permit and meeting the other bar requirements should have allowed Garcia admission to the bar. In fact, there are licensed attorneys in California that do not have any form of work permit. Generally, they work for overseas firms. Admission to the Bar does not allow an undocumented alien the right to work (s/he would have to apply with I-9 employment verification requirements) and does not prohibit the US from commencing Deportation. In closing, the case only allows for an "illegal alien" to have a license, but not allow the alien to be employed as an attorney or in any other position.
on January 2,2014 | 12:48PM
Bdpapa wrote:
on January 2,2014 | 01:18PM
konag43 wrote:
here is another case of supid state breaking a federal law so an illegal alien can have his way.. illegal is illegal whether he worked hard or not. he took jobs that american citizens could have had. until the fed's have more power we the ameicans of these united state will be totaly over run by illegal aliens and our tax dollars used to fund all these illegal alein expenses while they get off scot free from paying taxes to the united state of america. wake up america
on January 2,2014 | 01:19PM
kuewa wrote:
Perhaps you missed the comments immediately preceding yours (?) You might also be interested in reading the numerous non-partisan studies showing that immigration, legal or otherwise, has a net neutral or positive effect on the economy. Many employers and their illegal alien employees do in fact pay State and Federal taxes despite the employee's illegal status (which was part of the basis for the amnesty program some years ago), and illegal immigrants do not quality for most Federal and State support programs (Medicaid/care, SS, food stamps, etc.). It has also been shown that immigration, legal or otherwise, is the primary driver of US population growth, an essential element for economic growth in a free market economy. So, perhaps it is you who needs to wake up.
on January 2,2014 | 01:39PM
islandsun wrote:
No thanks....send the guy a letter saying his information will be passed along to immigration authorities. Immigrants are way overrated.
on January 2,2014 | 01:53PM
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