Resolution would help undocumented immigrants practice law

4:34 PM, Aug 14, 2012   |    comments
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SACRAMENTO, CA - 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 California 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," Undocumented Immigrant Sergio Garcia said.

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," Assm. Luis Alejo, D-Salinas, said.

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, giving an undocumented immigrant a California law license violates a 1996 federal law, which denies giving "public benefits" to illegal immigrants.

Other opponents said allowing a person with Garcia's status to be an attorney undermines the justice system.

"If you're 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," Assm. Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, said.

President Barack Obama's new policy that starts this week offers those 30 years 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 he 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 don't have to go through what I went through," Garcia said.

By Nannette Miranda


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