Oral arguments begin today in the California Supreme Court questioning if Sergio Garcia, an undocumented immigrant, can practice law. Although the Obama Administration has said they support high-skilled immigrants like Garcia, the Justice Department has urged the CA Supreme Court to deny giving Garcia a license to be an attorney on the grounds that it would violate federal immigration law.
"Independently of my status, I have to fulfill my dreams. I have to believe that all the work I've put into it is not going to be in vain," Garcia told Reason TV in 2012. "The knowledge you gain […] is not dependent on a piece of paper."
Although he was born in Mexico, Garcia was brought to the United States by his family when he was just a year old. He lived in California until he was nine years old, went back to Mexico for a few years and then returned to California to finish high school and eventually law school. His father says he applied for a green card for his son 18 years ago, but the application is still pending.
The California Supreme Court has to sign off on all new bar members and when they found out about Garcia's status they stopped short of letting him practice law. The court asked the Obama Justice Department to weigh in on the case instead. From the Associated Press:
The Obama position surprised some, since it had recently adopted a program that shields people who were brought to the U.S. as children, graduated high school and have kept a clean criminal record from deportation and allows them to legally work in the country.
At 36, Garcia is too old to qualify for the Obama program. But he and the immigration groups supporting Garcia argue that he his is exactly the type of candidate the Obama administration had in mind when it adopted its program.
So the administration's flat-out opposition stunned Garcia, who self-financed his education at Cal Northern School of Law in Chico while working at a grocery store and publishing a self-help book in 2006.