Can a Qualified Illegal Immigrant Practice Law?

Can Illegal Immigrants Practice Law?Some undocumented immigrants who were brought to the US as children have gone on to attend law schools in Florida, New York, and California. In some cases, they have passed their bar exams and have attempted to gain entry to their state bars, intending to work as attorneys. However, state bars in the three states prevent those who enter the country illegally from practicing law. The states are now being asked to re-examine their requirements to see whether someone has to be in the country with legal status in order to practice law in the US.

Sergio Garcia of California is caught in this situation. He has passed the state bar exam in his state and has attended Chico State University and Cal Northern School of Law but is not allowed to practice law. His family entered the US from Mexico when he was just an infant. The California Supreme Court may hold arguments about his case and has already asked for opinions. The California State Bar has already stated that Garcia and others in his situation should be allowed to practice law in California. However, the Supreme Court must make a recommendation before the Supreme Court can act. Although the case is primarily about Garcia, if he is allowed to practice law it will pave the way for other undocumented immigrants to practice law in California as well.

Some are opposed to having Garcia and other undocumented immigrants practice law in the US. Ira Mehlman of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, for example, has stated that it makes no sense to allow someone who is violating US laws to practice US law. Others oppose the idea because they feel that it would make it more appealing for immigrants to bypass the immigration system and come to the US illegally, since there are few long-term penalties for doing so.

Those who support Garcia and others like him say that not allowing undocumented immigrants to practice law is a waste of skill and training. They also note that it makes no sense to allow undocumented immigrants to sit for the bar exam and to study the law if they cannot practice it.

The issue is one of the latest ones affecting undocumented immigrants. The Obama administration has attempted to pass the DREAM Act – which would give undocumented immigrants in Garcia’s position a path to citizenship and work authorization – but has not been successful. President Obama has recently created a policy which would give some undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children work permits and freedom from deportation. Even if Garcia does qualify, however, his state bar still needs to permit him to practice law in California.