California Supreme Court Grants Admission To Practice Law

In a landmark decision issued earlier this year, the Supreme Court of California affirmed a decision of that state’s Committee of Bar Examiners – a part of the State Bar of California – to allow an undocumented immigrant to practice law in that state.  In making its decision in In re Garcia, that Court noted that section 1621 of title 8 of the United States Code (hereafter “section 1621) generally restricts an undocumented immigrant’s eligibility to obtain a professional license but that also contains a subsection expressly authorizing a state to render an undocumented immigrant eligible to obtain such a professional license through the enactment of a state law meeting specified requirements. As the California Legislature passed a statute that was intended to satisfy this aspect of section 1621 and the Governor signed that legislation into law, no statutory obstacle remained to block the admission.

In a historic statement, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye wrote, “Under these circumstances, we conclude that the fact that an undocumented immigrant’s presence in this country violates federal statutes is not itself a sufficient or persuasive basis for denying undocumented immigrants, as a class, admission to the State Bar. (The statutes referenced in that statement are distinguished from Section 1621 which gave the State the chance to provide such an opportunity to this candidate for admission to the bar.)

The newly-admitted attorney, Sergio Garcia, actually has resided in the United States for 19 years under an approved immigrant visa petition filed by his father back in 1995. But he has yet to receive an actual green card due to the enormous backlog of petitions by Mexican nationals which has amassed since then. While Mr. Garcia is the first such undocumented immigrant to receive a law license, other petitions are pending in New York and Florida.

The decision was not rendered without great controversy. Opponents of the idea included Larry DeSha, former prosecutor for the State Bar of California, who said Garcia shouldn’t be given his law license because his immigration status would be in violation of a civil immigration statute and could affect his ability to represent his clients. By contrast the state’s Attorney General, Kamala Harris, weighed in on Garcia’s side proclaiming that, Admitting Garcia to the bar would be consistent with state and federal policy that encourages immigrants, both documented and undocumented, to contribute to society.

The Shulman Law Group endeavors to ensure its clients be kept abreast of all significant developments relating to the immigration process to the United States. Edward Shulman, Esq, founder of The Shulman Law Group, LLC is a national speaker for the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).  AILA is the national association of immigration lawyers established to promote justice, advocate for fair and reasonable immigration law and policy, and to advance the quality of immigration and nationality law and practice.  In the course of Mr. Shulman’s involvement with AILA, he has been dedicated to educating other immigration attorneys about the import of helping intending immigrants to navigate a new cultural system. He meticulously follows all of the developments occurring in the battle over immigration reform so that he will be prepared to effectively assist his clients obtain either citizenship or residency if a new system is enacted.