Qualified Illegal Immigrant in California Should Not Practice Law

The high court of California heard from the Department of Justice about the issue of undocumented immigrants and law practice. According to the Department of Justice, undocumented immigrant Sergio Garcia should not be able to practice law in the state of California, even though Garcia attended law school in the US and passed his state bar exam. Garcia’s story has received much attention and state officials have backed his dream of becoming an attorney in the state.

The California Supreme Court filed an amicus brief in the case after seeking the opinion of the Justice Department in the case.  According to the Department of Justice brief, immigration is a federal matter and states cannot confer a decision in favor of Garcia in the case in the matter of state licenses. According to Department of Justice attorneys, the department cannot consider any immigration matters and can only determine whether Garcia meets the requirements to practice law in the state. The attorneys concluded that due to his immigration status, Garcia is not eligible to practice law in California. Jerome Fishkin, Garcia’s attorney, expressed disappointment in the decision. Fishkin stated that he and his client will continue to work to allow Garcia to practice law in the state.

Garcia has been in the US since he was 17 months old. His father had eventually become a US citizen and Garcia applied for a green card through his father’s sponsorship. He was approved for a visa in 1995 but continues to wait for a green card number to become available. The state bar and state Attorney General Kamala Harris have supported his decision to practice law.

Supporters of Garcia note that he was brought into the country as an infant and that he already been approved for permanent residency – it is only delays and technicalities that prevent him from having a green card now. They also note that undocumented immigrants such as Garcia should be allowed to work in the US and to be allowed to contribute their skills to the US economy. Further, some have noted that Garcia was accepted into law school and was allowed to sit for the bar exam, so they argue that it makes little sense for him to be denied the right to practice law now. Opponents, however, believe that having undocumented immigrants in the justice system undermines that system. The Department of Justice has not commented on the case beyond the brief, despite questions by the media.