Monday the California state bar told the California Supreme Court it believes an undocumented immigrant should be licensed to practice law. They did say his ability to work in the legal field would be restricted.
The case involves Sergio C. Garcia age 35, who came to the U.S. as a child, smuggled in by his father. Garcia worked his way through law school and passed the bar exam on his first try. The State Bar of California said that Garcia has met all of the requirements to become a lawyer and the obtaining of a law license does not guarantee the right to employment.
The State Bar argued that Garcia would be expected to act legally and holding a law license does not meen the holder be employed. The California Supreme Court is examining if Garcia’s undocumented status should prevent him from obtaining a legal license.
It is expected that immigration rights activists will file briefs, as this will set a precedent, for an undocumented immigrant to hold a license to practice law.
State Bar officials reminded the court that there are people that attend law school in California on a student or visitor visa and then have been admitted to practice law in the state of California.
They also argued that Legislature passed a law in 2005 permitting law school graduates that are ineligible to have a Social Security number to provide alternative forms of identification, when they apply for a license. Attorneys said the California Legislature seemed in favor of granting law licenses to undocumented immigrants, with this law.
The filing by the California State Bar said that employers should not misinterpret the law license as proof of legal residency. The documents stated that a reasonable employer would not assume that they would be relieved of verifying employment eligibility, of a person holding a law license.
The bar said, an undocumented immigrant holding a law license, would be able to engage in an independent contractor relationship or perform pro bono services. Two immigration attorneys have differing views on the case, Northern California immigration attorney Thomas Langford said this type of work by an undocumented immigrant would be considered “unauthorized employment” and he said it would be a violation of his status.
The other immigration lawyer, Helen Sklar of Los Angeles said that it is not illegal for an undocumented worker to accept payment for services. Sklar said “a person is not deportable for working without authorization.” Garcia said that he would like to practice personal injury and do litigation. He is waiting for a decision by the Supreme Court that has not decided if they will hold a hearing, before they issue a ruling.
Garcia, first came to the United States from Mexico as a toddler and then returned to Mexico at approximately 9 years-old. He then returned to the United States illegally with his family at the age of 17.