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California Court Grants Law License to Immigrant Living in U.S. Illegally


The Chronicle of Higher Education.  January 2, 2014.

The California Supreme Court on Thursday granted a man who had graduated from law school and passed the state bar examination, but was living in the United States illegally, a license to practice law.

In a unanimous ruling, the court found that there was no reason to deny Sergio Garcia’s bid for a law license, citing a new state law that authorizes the court to admit qualified applicants who are not yet citizens to the state bar.

The Obama administration had argued that federal law prevented such licensing unless a state adopted a law allowing licenses for immigrants in Mr. Garcia’s position. Federal lawyers abandoned their opposition to Mr. Garcia’s bid once Gov. Jerry Brown signed the legislation to allow such licenses in the state.

Garcia could not immediately be reached for comment, but in the past has told this newspaper he has dreamed of becoming a lawyer and hoped his case would open the door for immigrants in his position to gain the right to a law license. Garcia, who has been in the United States since high school and has relatives who have become citizens, estimates it will still be years before he can get his legal immigration status through the cumbersome federal immigration system.

Similar legal challenges are unfolding in Florida and New York, where illegal immigrants with law degrees are also seeking law licenses.

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