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California grants law license to undocumented immigrant

Although Sergio Garcia has lived in the U.S. for most of his life, his struggle to become a licensed lawyer has been a long one.

The subject of immigration is an incendiary one in American politics, and the Obama administration took a hard line when it eased rules concerning the deportation of young immigrants in 2012. The parameters set forth contained the temporary clearing of deportation for young people who come to the U.S., graduate high school, have no criminal records, among a few other requirements. So it came as a shock when the administration opposed the law licensing of Sergio Garcia -- a man in California who remains an illegal immigrant. 

Garcia was just issued a law license by the state of California as of January 1. According to reports, he has graduated from law school, passed the bar exam, and the law signed by Governor Jerry Brown went into effect January 1 that approves Garcia's law license. Garcia's challenging of the law put into place in 1996 that prevents professional licenses from being granted to illegal immigrants resulted in the passing of the California legislature that allows him to practice in the state without a green card. While the legal decision made in his favor is seen by some as a testimony to the dedication and drive of those who come to the U.S. striving to be successful, of course it comes with political ramifications.

Garcia emigrated to the U.S. at 17 months-old, and worked a variety of jobs as a teenager. After applying for a green card as a teen, and never having received one, his story is likely heartening for immigrants, but confusing for some. Garcia will be defending the same U.S. laws that have prevented him from becoming a licensed lawyer before now, although he is surely on the path towards aiming to change them. Perhaps the legal landscape is also changing as other states look at California's decision and examine their own laws regarding the professional licensing of undocumented immigrants.


Further reading:

U.S. slaps outsourcing company with record immigration fine

Illegal immigrants can sue for wages for work actually performed

How the immigration policy stalemate is hurting businesses and the economy

Contributing Author

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Juliana Kenny

Juliana Kenny is a contributor to, covering a range of topics including patent litigation, conflict mineral laws, executive compensation, and antitrust regulation. Juliana earned B.A.s...

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