LATINO VOICES
09/23/2013 09:14 pm ET

Bill That Would Let Undocumented Immigrants Practice Law Passes California Legislature

AP

Sergio Garcia’s fight to obtain a California law license despite his undocumented immigrant status has reached the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown through Assembly Bill 1024, which passed the state Legislature last week. But even the governor's signature will not mean the end of Garcia’s battle.

The bill, introduced by Assembly member Lorena Gonzales (D-San Diego) would let the state Supreme Court license lawyers even if they are undocumented.

The bill’s passage would send a message and be a tremendous victory for Garcia, who, after working his way through law school and passing the bar exam on the first attempt, was not allowed his legal license because of a 1996 federal law banning undocumented immigrants from receiving federal benefits, including professional licenses from government agencies.

Garcia came to the United States with his parents when he was an infant, left at age nine and returned when he was 17. He applied for legal residency in the mid-1990s.

While Brown has not announced a position on the bill, Garcia will not have an easy road ahead of him either way. Legal scholars say no law firm could legally hire him, and his citizenship status could disqualify him from representing some clients.

The opposition to allowing undocumented immigrants’ legal licenses has cited concerns that Garcia’s oath to uphold the constitution would be undermined.

Garcia has vowed to move the fight forward if Brown does not sign off on it.

"This is about trying to live the American Dream," he said, "And showing other immigrants that hard work and dedication does mean something in this country."

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