Sergio Garcia worked his way through college and law school.
The 36-year-old Chico resident passed the California State Bar Exam in 2009. Yet he can’t practice law in the Golden State. The reason: The federal government is blocking his admission to the state bar because he is an “illegal” immigrant.
At first glance, one might think this is a case of someone not wanting to be a citizen or either being here legally on a visa to benefit from the American society. Actually it is a case about an incompetent federal bureaucracy and immigration policies that favor the rich and not the working man.
His father is a United States citizen who emigrated here from Mexico. He sponsored his son at age 17 for a green card when he moved his family to the United States in 1994.
Garcia is still waiting for a visa number.
The 19-year wait is typical for green cards being issued for the huddled masses. You know the ones. They’re the people that most of us are descendants of who built America with dreams, hard work, blood, sweat and tears.
Now if Garcia’s dad had plunked down $500,000 in a federally approved foreign investment scheme supposedly to create American jobs such as the consortium cobbled together to develop the 1,400-home Trails project in southwest Manteca it would be a different story. Not only would he of had a green card within months but he’d been on the fast track to American citizenship within two years.
Garcia is not alone.
Remember the Department of Homeland Security’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program? It’s the one the Obama Administration rolled out a year ago allowing illegal immigrants brought to this country as children to remain here and work legally. The age of applicants caps out at 24, some 12 years younger than Garcia.
There have been 500,000-plus applicants for the program based on U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services statistics.
A survey was done of 1,608 of the applicants. An astonishing 42 percent expect to obtain a master’s degree or a professional degree. That is in addition to 17 percent who are pursuing medical degrees or doctorates.
Why would we shut the door or make it hard for men and women who we’ve already educated through public schools and partially if not all the way through college to become American citizens? The societal benefit of educating young people is to help them become productive citizens. Essentially it is paying back society for the education and other government services they have been afforded through work and paying taxes. To educate someone and then deport them or restrict their potential by putting them on bureaucratic ice for 19 years is counterproductive at best and borderline criminal at worst.
The U.S. Department of Justice is arguing today before the California Supreme Court the state has no right to allow Garcia to practice law.
It is an interesting position since the federal government has no issue with illegal immigrants as defined by Washington, D.C., statutes to attend law school at public colleges that are subsidized by tax dollars.
California State Attorney General Kamala Harris is basing the state’s position on state’s rights. The federal government is citing the Personal Responsibility and Work Act passed by Congress in 1996. That law says unless states pass laws that say otherwise they cannot provide illegal immigrants with public benefits including professional licenses.
What should really be on trial is the federal government’s current immigration policy being weighed heavily in favor of the rich at the expense of those who do and can make up the rank-and-file that weaves America’s economic and societal fabric.
Money talks — and not hard work — in Washington, D.C.
Garcia did what he was supposed to do.
He was sponsored for a green card visa by an American citizen. He didn’t live off the public dole. He got a job working his way up to become a produce manager of a market. He saved his money. He showed an entrepreneurial streak by writing a book dubbed “Love, Sex and Romance” in 2006 and using the proceeds to help finance his education. And he even used the tried and true American method of financing his education — credit cards — to pay for tuition. Credit cards that he has been paying off.
His status before the state bar would never have become a federal issue if Washington, D.C., did its job.
In a nutshell this is about an undocumented immigrant who has worked hard to follow the law and a federal government that hasn’t.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 249-3519.