California News

Illegal immigrant law student fights to obtain law license

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Brought across the Mexican border illegally by his family as a child, Sergio Garcia worked his way through college and law school.

On top of that, the Chico-area man passed the grueling state bar exam on his first try, but he can't open a practice until he gets a law license. The state Supreme Court is considering whether an undocumented immigrant can be given one.

"All I'm asking for is the opportunity to get out there and contribute to the economy that's suffering right now to my full potential," said Garcia.

Garcia now has the backing of Democratic lawmakers who introduced the State Bar DREAM Resolution. It's not a law, but it sends a clear message to the justices.

"We are urging the court that it is our intent that simply being undocumented should not be a determining factor on whether or not you should get your law license," said Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Salinas.

Attorney General Kamala Harris and the state bar filed briefs in support of giving Garcia his license. The Obama administration, on the other hand, opposes it, saying in its own legal filings that giving an undocumented immigrant a California law license violates a 1996 federal law which denies giving "public benefits" to illegal immigrants.

Other opponents say allowing people with Garcia's status to practice law undermines the justice system.

"If you are in violation of the law and your presence here is in violation of the law, then your first step as an attorney, you're disrespecting the law," said Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks.

President Obama's new policy offers people 30 years old and under legal status if they entered the United States before turning 16, attended school and have a clean criminal record. Garcia doesn't qualify for that because at 35 years old, he's over the age limit.

But Garcia is anxious to help those who qualify fill out the paperwork even while his own case is in legal limbo.

"They ask me, 'Does it bother you? Are you crying because you don't qualify?' I said no. I'm crying because I'm happy to be alive to see the day when you won't have to go through what I went through," said Garcia.

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Tags:
immigration, legal, california supreme court, president barack obama, california news, nannette miranda
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