Legislation allowing undocumented immigrants to practice law in California is headed to Gov. Jerry Brown after a final 60-3 Assembly vote.
Emerging last week as a gut-and-amend bill, Assembly Bill 1024 represents a direct response to a case before the California Supreme Court in which Sergio Garcia, an undocumented immigrant who was brought to the country as a young child and eventually passed the state bar exam, argued that his immigration status should not interfere with his ability to practice law.
"This bill is about bringing justice to deserving individuals and equality for all," said Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, the bill's sponsor. She pointed to enrollment data showing that multiple undocumented immigrants are currently enrolled in California law schools.
Proponents of the bill said the high court affirmed Garcia's right under federal law to practice, but only if California law spells out his ability to do so. Assembly Bill 1024 seeks to remedy that situation.
While some Republicans cited the absence of a conflict with federal statute in supporting the measure, detractors called the bill an unwise addition to immigration law. While Assemblyman Tim Donnelly called Garcia "extremely deserving," he called the bill a "mistake."
"What we are talking about is admitting someoen to the bar who the moment he swears his oath would be in violation of that oath," Donnelly said.
Most members of the California Latino Legislative Caucus signed on as co-authors. As an urgency measure, the bill would take effect immediately with the governor's signature.
PHOTO: Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, receives applause from lawmakers as she walks down the center isle of the Assembly to take the oath of office at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., Tuesday, May 28, 2013. AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli