Sergio Garcia’s status as an undocumented immigrant has hung up his admission to the California State Bar for more than three years. Yesterday, reports The Recorder in San Francisco, just one day after a new state law on undocumented immigrants took effect, the California Supreme Court ordered Garcia admitted and paved the way for others in his situation to become attorneys in good standing. “We conclude the fact that an undocumented immigrant is present in the United States without lawful authorization does not itself involve moral turpitude or demonstrate moral unfitness so as to justify exclusion from the State Bar,” said Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye.
How Garcia might lawfully practice without violating U.S. immigration law is an open question the court left for another day. Garcia plans to hang out a shingle and do plaintiffs’ personal injury work; the Supreme Court described the legality that arrangement as “ambiguous.” The only bone of contention among the justices was how to describe Garcia, a native of the Mexican state of Michoacan who spent half his childhood and all of his adult life in California. Cantil-Sakauye said “undocumented immigrant,” prompting Justice Ming Chin to point out that the court deliberately chose just three years ago to use “unlawful alien.” Garcia’s attorney, Jerome Fishkin, said, “The immigration system is broken, everyone knows it. This is one small piece in putting the puzzle back together, particularly for immigrant children.”