Department of Justice Upholds 1996 Immigration Law

The California Supreme Court called on the Department of Justice to help decide on a ruling in Sergio Garcia’s quest to practice law in the United States. Garcia’s case is controversial because although he passed the California bar examination, he but does not possess a green card or work visa to allow him to legally work in the United States.

On August 2, 2012, the DOJ filed an amicus brief that did not rule in favor of Garcia, saying that granting him his law license would conflict with federal immigration restrictions outlined in a 1996 immigration law.

Under the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, the DOJ mandated that Garcia should not be eligible to receive his law license because his status as an illegal immigrant means he should legally not have the right to “public benefits” like obtaining professional licenses issued by the government.

“The enforcement of the federal provisions governing employment by aliens is a responsibility of the federal government, and is not the proper subject of state-court proceedings, particularly in the context of state licensing,” DOJ wrote in a 17-page brief. “Instead, the only question before the Court is whether Mr. Garcia meets the criteria for admission for the bar under state and federal law. Because he is not an eligible alien under 8 U.S.C. Sec. 1621, and thus does not satisfy a condition set out in the federal law, the bar application should be denied.”

The California Supreme Court has not indicated when it will issue its final decision in the case, and Garcia plans to continue in his fight to become a U.S. citizen and a California attorney.