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Undocumented Immigrant Can Practice Law, California Court Rules

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The California Supreme Court made a historic ruling today in favor of an undocumented immigrant who wants to practice law.

The immigrant in question is Sergio Garcia, 36, who passed the bar on the first try in 2009 after graduating from Cal Northern School of Law in Chico. He actually practiced law for two weeks until he was told that his admission into the state bar was challenged by a federal 1996 law that bars undocumented immigrants from receiving public benefits, which includes professional licenses, according to the Los Angeles Times. (Garcia, who hails from Mexico, had applied for residency two years before that law, and he's still waiting on that.)

His case went to the courts, and as recently as this September, it looked like the court would not be ruling in favor of Garcia. The Obama administration opposed his entry into the legal profession. But when the state court indicated in a hearing that it thought that this matter should be decided by legislation and not the justices, the California Legislature sprung into action. (Other states, including Florida and New York, have been wrestling with similar cases.)

Governor Jerry Brown signed a new state law authorizing Garcia's license, according to the Associated Press. The new law went into effect yesterday, and the court ruled in Garcia's favor today, writing "In light of the recently enacted state legislation, we conclude that the committee’s motion to admit Garcia to the State Bar should be granted."

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Federal lawyers told the New York Times they disagree with the decision, but they don't have any plans to challenge it. Garcia celebrated with champagne for breakfast:

You might think that after all of his experience with immigration law, that would be his specialty, but he plans to serve the downtrodden in a different way. He told the Los Angeles Times, "Everyone thinks I want to be an immigration attorney. No, no, never, never! Personal injury! When someone calls and says, ‘I am injured,’ they are hurt, I can get them medical help they need and peace of mind and not have insurance companies harassing them."