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Undocumented immigrant granted admission to the State Bar

In a case of first impression, the California Supreme Court has granted a law license to an undocumented immigrant.

Sergio C. Garcia was born in Mexico in 1977 and brought to California by his parents when he was a minor. Garcia has had an approved application for a visa since 1995, but has been waiting since then for the visa to be issued.

Meanwhile, the State Bar’s Committee of Bar Examiners found that Garcia had met all the requirements for a license – including passage of the bar exam and a positive moral character determination – and recommended his admission to the bar.

In its unanimous Jan. 2 decision, the court said that while federal law generally restricts an undocumented immigrant’s ability to obtain a professional license, a state law that went into effect Jan. 1 removed that potential obstacle to Garcia’s admission. The new state law also “reflects that the Legislature and the Governor have concluded that the admission of an undocumented immigrant who has met all the qualifications for admission to the State Bar is fully consistent with this state’s public policy, and…we find no basis to disagree with that conclusion.”

State Bar President Luis J. Rodriguez said of the decision: "With today's ruling, the California Supreme Court reaffirms the Committee of Bar Examiners' finding as not a political decision but rather one grounded in the law.”

For more information about the case, read the briefs and other filings.