Supreme Court grants law license to undocumented immigrant

The California Supreme Court has granted a law license to a man living in the United States illegally who graduated from law school and passed the state bar exam. The decision means Sergio Garcia can begin practicing law despite his immigration status.

Garcia had challenged a 1996 federal law that bars people living in the country illegally from receiving professional licenses from government agencies or with the use of public funds, unless state lawmakers vote otherwise.

Shortly after the court heard arguments in the case, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a state law that authorized the granting of the license. The new law went into effect January 1.
Garcia arrived in the U.S. illegally 20 years ago to pick almonds with his father and worked at a grocery store and in the fields while attending school. The case has pitted the Obama administration, who opposes licensing Garcia, against state officials who have supported him.

The Obama position in the case came as a surprise to some, since it adopted a program that shields people who were brought to the U.S. as children, graduated high school and have kept a clean criminal record from deportation and allows them to legally work in the country.

At a hearing in September a majority of the court's justices appeared reluctant to grant Garcia the license, saying the law prohibits them from doing so unless the Legislature acts.

The state Supreme Court is in charge of licensing attorneys in California. Lawyers for the federal government argued that Garcia was barred from receiving his license because the court's budget is funded by public money. His effort has been supported by State Bar officials and California's attorney general, who argued that citizenship status is not a requirement to receive a California law license.
Hola Arkansas Staff

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