An undocumented Mexican immigrant is allowed to practice law in California, the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday in what's sure to become a landmark immigration case.
The unanimous ruling in favor of Sergio Garcia came after California legislators passed a bill last year that specifically authorized the high court to allow qualified applicants into the state bar, regardless of their immigration status.
According to Reuters, the U.S. Department of Justice had opposed Garcia's application, while California Attorney General Kamala Harris supported it. Neither office could immediately comment on Thursday.
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Last year the Democratic-led U.S. Senate approved a path to citizenship for millions of immigrants living in the United States illegally, but the Republican-controlled House of Representatives has not yet taken up the legislation.
Meanwhile, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a series of immigrant rights bills last October. In addition to the legislation authorizing the state Supreme Court to authorize undocumented immigrants for the bar, other new laws prohibit law enforcement officials from detaining immigrants based on federal government instructions except in cases of serious crimes or convictions, and make it illegal for employers to retaliate against workers on the basis of their citizenship.
Garcia entered the United States as an infant, lived there until the age of eight or nine and then returned with his family to his native Mexico. At 17, Garcia reentered the United States with his father, who was then a permanent U.S. resident and later became a citizen.
His father filed a petition seeking an immigrant visa for Garcia in 1995. Garcia is still waiting to receive the visa, which would allow him to seek permanent residency and ultimately citizenship. Garcia earned a law degree from Cal Northern School of Law in Chico, California, north of Sacramento, and passed the state bar exam.
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