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Assembly resolution supports illegal immigrant's bid to become a lawyer

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POSTED August 20, 2012 8:17 p.m.

SACRAMENTO  (AP) — A man in a legal fight to become an attorney in California despite being brought to the U.S. illegally as a child now has the support of the state Assembly.

Legislators passed a resolution 48-24 Monday on a party-line vote. It commends 35-year-old Sergio Garcia of Durham and declares that immigration status should not prohibit someone from getting a law license. Unlike a bill, a resolution merely state's the Legislature's intent.

Garcia told The Associated Press in a July interview that his parents brought him to the U.S. illegally from Mexico as a toddler. He applied for legal residency in 1995 and in 2009 received a degree from Cal Northern School of Law in Chico.

He passed the bar exam, and his attempt to get a license has been endorsed by the State Bar of California. But the state Supreme Court, which approves law licenses, wants to hear arguments about whether or not they can accept Garcia because of his immigration status.

"He's done everything our society has asked of him," Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville and the resolution's sponsor, said Monday. "All we are saying is being undocumented should not prohibit you from getting your law license."

Opponents of the resolution said it undermines a lawyer's oath to uphold the Constitution and the rule of law.

"(Lawyers) swear they will abide by each and every federal and state law. So what do they do, are they going to report themselves," said Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks.

The U.S. Department of Justice opposed Garcia's bid in a brief filed with the state's high court, citing a federal law restricting people who lack legal immigration status from obtaining certain state benefits, including professional licenses.

Some legislators said supporting Garcia's legal aspirations is moot because federal law prohibits companies from hiring immigrants without work authorization. Garcia's supporters have argued that he could work as an independent contractor with his own clients.

The case will go before the California Supreme Court in the fall. Similar cases are being heard in Florida and New York.

 

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