Michael Tan,
Deputy Director,
ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project
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January 3, 2014

On Thursday the California Supreme Court granted Sergio Garcia his law license, and in its landmark ruling, held unanimously that undocumented immigrants can be admitted to the practice of law. The decision comes on the heels of Assembly Bill 1024, which passed by overwhelming majorities in the state legislature this fall and ensures that a qualified individual cannot be denied a law license simply because of his or her immigration status. California thus becomes the first state in the nation to protect the rights of all individuals who work hard and pass the bar exam to be admitted to the practice of law.

With this decision, Sergio Garcia’s dream of becoming a lawyer—and the dreams of countless other young people like him in California—is finally a reality. It has taken many years to achieve this victory. Like many DREAMers, Garcia came here with his parents as a small child—only 17 months old. He lived in California until he was nine, when the family moved back to Mexico for several years, and then returned again when Garcia was 17. Although the federal government has approved an immigration petition that his father filed for him, because of backlogs, Garcia has been waiting 19 years for a visa to become available so he can finally get his green card.

Sergio Garcia graduated from high school and college, received his law degree from the Cal Northern School of Law in May 2009, and passed the bar exam on his first try that same year. The California State Bar did an extensive investigation of his background and found that he possessed the good moral character required for admission. But until today’s decision, it was unclear whether his hard work would pay off or whether, because of immigration status, his schooling would amount to a bridge to nowhere.

Among the many groups and individuals that have championed his cause and stood up to support his admission to practice, is the State Bar of California, the California Attorney General, seven prominent California law school deans, and the ACLU and other civil rights organizations. Today’s decision is a victory for fairness and equal opportunity. It tells young people across the state that they will be judged for their accomplishments and character—and not dismissed just because of how they came here as children. It is a message that uplifts us all, as we help to create the future we want to see for ourselves, our families and our nation.

The ACLU filed an amicus brief in support of Sergio’s admission to the California bar.

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