California Supreme Court Grants Law License to Illegal Immigrant; Will Other States Follow?

Published on January 4th, 2014

By Joe Guzzardi
January 3, 2014

With the California Supreme Court’s decision to allow illegal immigrant Sergio Garcia to practice law, the state has hit the nadir of insanity in eliminating distinctions between those here legally and those who are not.

Garcia’s case dates back to 2009 when he first passed the California bar examination. His many allies argued that since Garcia came to the US as a child and has lived an exemplary life in the more than 20 years since his arrival including his graduation from Cal Northern Law School, the 36-year-old should be allowed to practice. But in August 2012, the Department of Justice issued an amicus brief stating that federal law prohibits granting professional licenses to illegal immigrants unless a state passes a law allowing it. The California Legislature passed such a law in September 2013; Governor Jerry Brown signed it in October. 

The Supreme Court, the California legislature and Brown ignored other compelling points that should ban Garcia from practicing law. First, Garcia’s illegal presence in the US violates immigration law every day. Furthermore, Garcia can’t be legally employed in the US. No law firm, government entity or corporation can legally hire Garcia. Finally, Garcia cannot truthfully take an attorney’s oath of office since it requires that he will “…support the Constitution of the US…” a condition which Garcia has already violated. 

During 2013, California cemented its well established tradition of catering to illegal immigrants. California’s level of disregard for federal law shocked even long-time immigration analysts. Last year, Brown signed bills that will allow illegal immigrants to get driver’s licenses, and another that would protect many aliens from deportation. California is one of the first states to allow illegal immigrant university students to enroll at the lower in-state tuition rate. In January, AB 131 passed, allowing illegal immigrants to qualify for Cal Grant scholarships. Both in-state tuition and Cal Grants were originally intended for and available only to legal California residents. 

Advocates hailed the California Supreme Court decision and hope that it will pave the way for similar opinions in other states. Two other cases are pending. In Florida Jose Godinez-Samperio, 26, and in New York Cesar Vargas, 30, aliens who have applied for law licenses, await state Supreme Court decisions. 

Ten years ago, it would have been unimaginable that illegal immigrants would be given law licenses. But since 2007, the pro-immigration lobby has spent $1.5 billion and is more powerful than ever. Some critics persuasively argue that illegal immigrants are more influential than citizens. After all, the White House under intense pressure from the immigration lobby has issued a series of executive actions favorable to illegal immigrants that have circumvented Congress and rewritten immigration law. 

Garcia, Godinez-Samperio, and Vargas are members of the DREAM Bar Association, a national group formed with guidance from the American Immigration Lawyers Association for the express purpose of advancing the collective causes of would be illegal immigrant lawyers. The association’s mission, according to its president Jose Magaña, is to urge all 50 states to pass legislation and promulgate rules that would ensure that illegal immigrant students “who have graduated from an ABA-accredited law school, meet the state bar’s character and fitness requirements, and successfully pass the bar examination are able to obtain a law license and fully utilize their legal education.”

If I had to bet on the outcome, I’d put my money on the DREAM Bar Association.

Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow whose columns have been syndicated since 1987. Contact him at [email protected]

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