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Undocumented Immigrants Can Now Practice Law in California

Sergio Garcia has been waiting for his green card for 19 years, but thanks to a California Supreme Court ruling, he can now be admitted to the state’s bar and fulfill his dream of becoming an attorney regardless of his immigration status.

The 36-year-old finished law school in 2009, passed the bar exam, and went on to make history with the landmark case Thursday when the court unanimously ruled in favor of Garcia and others like him obtaining their law license in the Golden State. All because of some glitch in the system that has kept his status as “undocumented” since he was brought to the U.S. from Mexico by his parents as a 17-month-old.

Here’s what the judges had to say, according to CNN:

Immigration officials would be unlikely to pursue sanctions against an undocumented immigrant who had been living in the United States for years, had been educated in this country and whose sole unlawful conduct was his presence in this country, the court said in a unanimous ruling written by Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye.

“Under these circumstances, we conclude that the fact that an undocumented immigrant’s presence in this country violates federal statutes is not itself a sufficient or persuasive basis for denying undocumented immigrants, as a class, admission to the State Bar,” the court ruled.

Garcia has struggled long and hard to be able to practice law after his admission to the California State Bar was revoked with a letter stating that it was all one big mistake. In an interview with CNN, the attorney, admittedly tired whether from his arduous legal battle or celebrating the victory, looks delightfully relieved. When asked if he will practice immigration law, Garcia laughs, “Oh no, that stuff’s just too messed up. … I mean 19 years waiting and it’s still not fixed so I’m not interested in that.” Although Garcia plans on being a litigator, he does want to have an immigration lawyer on staff as he fervently believes in that work.

Watch as Garcia explains the difficulties he’s faced and addresses critics of the ruling who believe his undocumented status will somehow affect his ability to practice law effectively. Hopefully there’s also an immigration officer watching somewhere who can get this man’s green card to him at last.

—Posted by Natasha Hakimi

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