Illegal Immigrants on the Verge of Entitlement Trifecta: Goodbye Deportation, Hello Driver and Law Licenses

Published on September 18th, 2013

As a journalist with more than 20 years experience covering California and its nonstop immigration crisis, I always wonder what outrage will be next. Earlier this month, I wrote about the Trust Act, legislation designed to deport from California the fewest possible number of illegal immigrants. Right after the State Assembly passed the Trust Act, it also approved AB 60, a bill that would give aliens the right to obtain driver’s licenses.

Returning to my question about what bonus for illegal immigrants could be next, the answer is a bill that would allow illegal immigrants to practice law. On September 12, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez’s bill, AB 1024, passed 62-4 with strong support from Attorney General Kamala Harris and, disappointingly, the State Bar of California.

Sacramento ignored a 2012 filing by the U.S. Justice Department which advised California’s high court that the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act prohibits the state from issuing a license to practice law to Sergio Garcia, who came to the country as a minor illegally, and other aliens who might apply. The same federal law would also prohibit them from practicing law.

Justice Department lawyers told the court that the 1996 law denies “public benefits” to illegal immigrants, and was written to "preclude undocumented aliens from receiving commercial and professional licenses issued by states and the federal government." Nevertheless, the defiant California Assembly pressed on. [Illegal Immigrant Can’t Be Lawyer, by Bob Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle, August 3, 2012]

The 36-year-old Garcia’s biography is interesting. Garcia came to California with his parents when he was 17 months old, then returned to Mexico with them at age nine. When he was 17, he returned to California with his parents. In 1994, Garcia applied for legal status; his application has been pending for nearly 20 years.

Garcia has been living illegally in the United States for two decades. At some time during those 20 years, Garcia should have been deported. The California Assembly, however, interprets Garcia’s illegal immigrant status as worthy of a professional career practicing law.

If Brown signs the three bills, the illegal lobby will have won a mind-boggling trifecta – stay of deportation, driver’s licenses and precedent-setting legislation that will open the California bar to alien practitioners.

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