California Attorney General Kamala Harris on Wednesday sided with an undocumented immigrant's bid to become a lawyer, telling the state Supreme Court that the law school graduate has a legal right to get his license to practice.
In a brief filed in the Supreme Court, Harris backed the cause of Sergio Garcia, a 35-year-old Chico area man whose immigration status has clouded his right to be licensed by the State Bar. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the controversial case, and it invited Harris' legal views on whether state or federal laws forbid licensing an undocumented immigrant.
"No law or policy prevents this court from admitting Garcia to the State Bar," the attorney general's office wrote. "In fact, admitting Garcia to the Bar would be consistent with state and federal policy that encourages immigrants, both documented and undocumented, to contribute to society."
The State Bar Board of Examiners also has recommended that the Supreme Court allow Garcia to be licensed.
Garcia originally came to the United States as a toddler and returned to Mexico at around eight-years old, returning here for good when he was 17 to finish high school. He has been waiting 18 years for his visa; his father and most of his siblings are already U.S. citizens.
The state Supreme Court also asked the Obama administration for its view on whether federal law bars the license, but government lawyers on Wednesday asked for several more weeks to respond.
Critics say an undocumented immigrant should not have the legal right to be a licensed lawyer. A similar case is unfolding in Florida.
Howard Mintz covers legal affairs. Contact him at 408-286-0236 or follow him at Twitter.com/hmintz