The California Supreme Court [official website] ruled [text, PDF] on Thursday that an immigrant in the country illegally may be admitted to the state bar. The court admitted Sergio Garcia based on a new California statute [Business and Professions Code section 6064, PDF] which grants the court discretion to admit any individual "who is not lawfully present in the United States" that fulfills all the requirements for admission. Garcia, who was born in Mexico and brought to the US almost 20 years ago is eligible to adjust his immigration status to attain lawful permanent resident when an immigration visa number becomes available. However, he is still waiting for adjustment due to the high demand for visas for Mexican citizens. The court specifically noted:
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. The new legislation removes any potential statutory obstacle to Garcia's admission posed by section 1621 [text], and there is no other federal statute that purports to preclude a state from granting a license to practice law to an undocumented immigrant. The new statute also reflects that the Legislature and the Governor have concluded that the admission of an undocumented immigrant who has met all the qualifications for admission to the State Bar is fully consistent with this state's public policy, and, as this opinion explains, we find no basis to disagree with that conclusion. Finally, we agree with the Committee's determination that Garcia possesses the requisite good moral character to warrant admission to the State Bar and, pursuant to our constitutional authority, grant the Committee's motion to admit Garcia to the State Bar.Critics claim that this ruling sets a dangerous precedent as well as raise the potential contradiction in admitting an individuation not lawfully in the US to uphold the law as a part of the state bar. Supporters of the ruling, however, argue that it is a step in the right direction by granting increased rights to those undocumented immigrants who are otherwise successful and contributing members of the community.
US immigration law [JURIST backgrounder] continues to be a controversial issue, especially in dealing with undocumented immigrants. Last month New Jersey governor signed [JURIST report] a bill allowing undocumented immigrants to claim in-state tuition. In November the mayor of Washington, DC, signed [JURIST report] a bill allowing driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants. In April Oregon's governor signed a bill [JURIST report] allowing undocumented immigrants to attend public universities at the same tuition rate as in-state residents. In March a judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of Georgia permanently blocked [JURIST report] a key provision in Georgia's immigration law that criminalized knowingly transporting or harboring an undocumented immigrant during the course of any other crime.