California's Supreme Court ruled Thursday that an undocumented immigrant from Mexico should receive a license to practice law in accordance with a new state law.
The ruling in favor of Sergio Garcia, 36, comes after California lawmakers passed a bill in October authorizing qualified applicants into the state bar, regardless of their immigration status. Garcia's case was widely seen as a test of the viability of the new law.
The Associated Press says:
"The decision means 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."
"The U.S. Department of Justice had opposed Garcia's application, while California Attorney General Kamala Harris supported it. Neither office could immediately comment on Thursday."
"Garcia was born in Mexico. His parents brought him to the U.S. when he was 17 months old. He moved back and forth between the two countries until he came to California permanently when he was 17. At that time, immigration officials approved Garcia for a green card. That was possible because his dad had a green card. Garcia himself would have to wait to get his own green card until one became available.
"He's been waiting for nearly 19 years.
"In the meantime, he worked his way through college, law school, and passed the state bar exam.
" I am 36 years old,' he says. 'This is the home I know. This is the country I know. And this is the country I want to work for and fight for.' "
Update at 3:50 p.m. ET:
Scott Shafer of member station KQED in San Francisco reports that despite the victory for Garcia, federal law still prohibits employers, including law firms from hiring undocumented immigrants.
Garica's attorney, Jerome Fishkin says of his client: "He got no government loans, no scholarships. And this is why immigrants come to this country. So they can work and make better lives for themselves and their families."