Feds Tell State Supreme Court Not to Let Illegal Immigrant Practice Law

Friday, August 03, 2012
Sergio C. Garcia (photo: David Bartletti, McClatchy-Tribune News Service)

The U.S. Department of Justice, at the request of the California Supreme Court, has weighed in on the application for admittance to the State Bar by an illegal immigrant.

The feds’ 17-page amicus brief is unequivocal in its opposition to the request by 35-year-old Sergio C. Garcia that he be given a license to practice law. “The only question before the Court is whether Mr. Garcia meets the criteria for admission to the bar under state and federal law,” federal lawyers wrote. “Because he is not an eligible alien . . . and thus does not satisfy a condition set out in federal law, the bar application should be denied.”

Garcia—who put himself through college and Cal Northern School of Law, and passed the bar examination on his first try in 2009—has the backing of state Attorney General Kamala Harris, who wrote a brief supporting his bid. He applied for admittance to the bar in 2011.

Garcia was brought to the United States from Mexico by his parents when he was an infant. He returned to Mexico with them at age 9 and returned to the states at 17. He was working as a paralegal when he applied to the bar and is applying for U.S. citizenship, which could take up to 15 years. 

Supporters of Garcia were hopeful that the Obama administration, which announced in June that hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants brought here as children can avoid deportation and get work permits, would be supportive of his efforts. The administration supports Dream Act legislation, tied up in Congress, that would allow some children of illegal immigrants to pursue a college education and jobs that would put them on a path to citizenship.

The California Supreme Court is generally the ultimate arbiter of who can practice law in the state. It acts on the recommendation of the state bar association, which supports Garcia’s application.

Garcia has indicated he wants to practice litigation and personal injury law. He is currently working with his father, who has himself attained citizenship, in Northern California as a beekeeper. His father sponsored the younger Garcia for citizenship 18 years ago.

The state Supreme Court will probably hear arguments in the case in the next few months.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

Justice Department: California Should Not Let Illegal Immigrant Practice Law (By Dan Whitcomb and Mary Slosson, Reuters)

California State Bar Argues for Law Licenses for the Undocumented (by Maura Dolan, Los Angeles Times)

State Bar Asks High Court to Let Illegal Immigrant Practice Law (by Ken Broder, AllGov)

U.S. Justice Department Opposes Undocumented Immigrant’s Right to Get California Law License (by Howard Mintz, San Jose Mercury News)

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