Border Patrol or California Supreme Court?

WRITTEN BY: Maeve Flanagan ’14

In 2009, Sergio Garcia graduated from Cal Northern School of Law and was among the 46.6% who passed the California Bar that same year.  Unfortunately, Garcia received a letter in the mail two weeks after his swearing in ceremony, stating that his admission was an error.  Garcia was born in Mexico and brought to America by his parents when he was 17 months old.  Even though he has been on the waiting list for a green card for 19 years, Sergio Garcia is still considered an illegal immigrant in the eyes of the law.

In 2012, Garcia petitioned for his license to be reinstated.  In that hearing, the court stated that it would have to deny Mr. Garcia’s petition based on the current federal law. 8 U.S.C. § 1621 prohibits illegal aliens from obtaining professional licenses, which includes the license to practice law. Mr. Garcia’s petition to get his license reinstated has been met with strong opposition.  The Department of Justice submitted an amicus curiae brief, stating that Mr. Garcia should not be admitted to practice law in California and even if he was permitted to do so, he could not legally be employed by any law firm or agency.  In an editorial on the National Review Online, immigration specialist Mark Krikorian states that his admission to the bar would normalize illegal immigration.

However, in response to the court’s indications in 2012, the California legislature passed a new statute in October of 2013, allowing illegal immigrants to practice law. The new California statute — Business and Professions Code section 6064, subdivision (b) — became effective on January 1, 2014.  This week, Garcia’s petition to reinstate his law license was granted by the California Supreme Court (In re Garcia, S202512, 2014 WL 24011 (Cal. Jan. 2, 2014).

The court’s decision to give Garcia a license to practice law is groundbreaking and will certainly spur change in other jurisdictions throughout the United States.  There are similar cases currently being heard in Florida and New York.  But is Mark Krikorian right?  Is granting illegal immigrants professional licenses making illegal immigration a bit too “normal” and effectively making the illegality of it a thing of the past?

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