MALDEF, DREAM BAR ASSOCIATION, AND OTHERS URGE CALIFORNIA SUPREME COURT TO ADMIT UNDOCUMENTED LAW GRADUATE TO STATE BAR
Admission Comports With Federal and State Law and Policy
LOS ANGELES, CA – In the first case of its kind pending before the California Supreme Court, MALDEF, the Dream Bar Association, and a coalition of civil rights and legal groups have submitted an amicus brief in the matter of In re Sergio C. Garcia on Admission to support undocumented law school graduate Sergio C. Garcia’s application to join the California Bar.
Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF President and General Counsel, stated, “After reviewing federal and state law, the California Supreme Court should conclude that barring admission on the basis of immigration status would violate established public policy and raise serious constitutional concerns. We are therefore confident that the Court will recognize that the Bar's recommendation to admit is well-supported and the right decision for California.”
Mr. Garcia’s immigrant visa petition was approved in 1995, and he has waited 17 years for the visa to become available. In this time, Mr. Garcia has graduated from law school, cleared the State Bar’s moral character determination, and passed the rigorous, three-day California State Bar Examination. Meeting all current requirements, he was recommended for Bar admission by the Committee of Bar Examiners of the State Bar of California.
MALDEF and the coalition have submitted an amicus brief on behalf of Mr. Garcia to make it clear that admission into the California State Bar is a fundamental power of the California Supreme Court and that federal law does not prevent the Court from admitting Mr. Garcia and other undocumented immigrant applicants who otherwise meet the State’s requirements. Thus, Mr. Garcia and other undocumented law students who have met the qualifications to practice law should be admitted to the California State Bar.
Mr. Garcia, like many other immigrants who were brought to the United States as children and have grown up in this country, has completed school, excelled in college, and has even earned a prestigious professional degree. A key tenet of California’s public policy on education is to enable individuals like Mr. Garcia to continue to work towards their futures by waiving non-resident tuition for qualifying undocumented immigrants at public colleges and universities and by allowing these individuals access to state student aid. As President Obama made clear when he announced a policy of deferred action for undocumented youth, these individuals should be given a way to continue to contribute to society. Allowing all qualified applicants to practice law will build the legal profession’s capacity to deliver legal services to underserved populations, add to the diversity of the Bar, and help facilitate California’s economic recovery.
“California has wisely decided that undocumented students should be allowed to pursue their academic dreams, and the federal government is taking steps to provide these individuals with a way to come out of the shadows and contribute to this society,” said Nicholas Espiritu, MALDEF Staff Attorney. “By allowing them the opportunity to become members of the Bar, the California Supreme Court will further these goals.”
MALDEF has advocated on behalf of undocumented youth brought here at a young age since the organization’s founding and notably in landmark case Plyler v. Doe in 1982, and will continue to work with its coalition allies for greater opportunity and the fair application of our laws and regulations on behalf of individuals like Mr. Garcia.
Founded in 1968, MALDEF is the nation's leading Latino legal civil rights organization. Often described as the "law firm of the Latino community," MALDEF promotes social change through advocacy, communications, community education, and litigation in the areas of education, employment, immigrant rights, and political access. For more information on MALDEF, please visit: www.maldef.org.