California State Bar Argues for Law Licenses for the Undocumented

Maura Dolan, Los Angeles Times, June 19, 2012

An undocumented immigrant should be licensed to practice law even though his ability to work will be restricted, the state bar told the California Supreme Court on Monday.

The agency said Sergio C. Garcia, 35, had met all the requirements to become a lawyer and could work without pay or as an independent contractor if licensed. The granting of a law license does not confer a right to employment, the State Bar of California argued, and Garcia would be expected to act legally.

“While a license to practice law is necessary to obtain employment as an attorney, having a law license does not mean that the holder may be employed,” attorneys for the bar said in a written filing.

The argument came in response to a request from the state high court, which is examining whether Garcia’s undocumented status should prevent him from becoming licensed. The case is expected to attract a flurry of briefs from immigration rights activists because it will set a precedent.

Garcia came from Mexico as a toddler, returned to his homeland with his family when he was about 9 and reentered the country illegally with family members when he was 17.

He attended law school at Cal Northern School of Law and passed the bar examination on his first try. His father, who has obtained American citizenship, sponsored Garcia for a green card 18 years ago, but the application is still pending.


The state Supreme Court has not decided whether to hold a hearing on Garcia’s case before issuing a ruling.


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