Illegal immigrant celebrates win in battle for law license

Illegal immigrant celebrates win in battle for law license

CHICO, Calif. - A landmark decision by the California Supreme Court came down Thursday and a Chico man is in the middle of it.

Sergio Garcia, an illegal immigrant, was granted his license to practice law.

It's a decision that has some comparing Garcia to the likes of Rosa Parks in her battle for civil rights.

KRCR News Channel 7 spoke to the soon-to-be attorney at his Chico office.  As of 12:30 p.m. on Thursday, just two hours after the court's ruling was announced, Garcia had already conducted 60 media interviews.

"2014 couldn't have been any better," said Garcia. "Just to have this decision."

Garcia, who has passed the state bar exam, is in the nation's spotlight because of Thursday's unanimous ruling by the California Supreme Court.  It allows him, an illegal immigrant, to practice law in California.  The decision could have a far-reaching impact.

"As you know, what California does a lot of people follow," explained Garcia.  "I know that Florida is facing the same issue and New York is facing the same issue.  And I really think that they were both waiting on us to act."

Garcia hasn't had a chance to read the court's 37-page opinion.  It followed the law passed by the legislature and signed by Governor Jerry Brown, authorizing the granting of the license effective January 1.   

A 1996 law had barred people living in the country illegally from receiving "professional licenses" from government agencies, or with the use of public funds, unless state lawmakers vote otherwise.

In its ruling Thursday, the California Supreme Court wrote:

"In light of the recently enacted state legislation, we conclude that the Committee's (Committee of Bar Examiners) motion to admit Garcia to the State Bar should be granted.

Garcia said he's been trying for 19 years to become a U.S. citizen, but the system is broken.   He said citizenship is still his hope.

"I love this country. This country has given me a lot, even though it has given me a lot of heartache as well."

Garcia will be sworn in as a California attorney sometime during the next month in Sacramento.  You might think he would become an immigration attorney. But Garcia said he wants to focus on civil litigation and personal injury,  helping others fight through the court system like he did.  

You may be seeing more of Garcia.  His attorney is negotiating an appearance on the Jon Stewart Show.

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