Should Undocumented Immigrants Be Allowed to Practice Law in the U.S.?

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Dave and Les Jacobs

In an unprecedented case, the California Supreme Court is deciding whether Sergio Garcia, a 35-year-old undocumented Mexican immigrant, should be allowed to receive a law license in California.

Garcia, who has been waiting 18 years for a visa that was approved in 1995, attended college and law school in California, and has satisfactorily passed the State Bar of California’s rigorous exam and its moral character review. For these reasons, the group’s Committee of Bar Examiners argues that Sergio should receive his law license, regardless of his immigration status.

[WATCH: Undocumented Americans: Inside the Immigration Debate]

“… Mr. Garcia’s status in the United States, should not, ipso facto, be grounds for excluding him from law licensure. He has met all of the prescribed qualifications and there is no reason to believe he cannot take the oath and faithfully uphold his duties as an attorney,” the bar said in its statement to the Supreme Court. “ The grant of a law license provides no guarantee of a pathway to lawful employment in the United States for these individuals,” the committee added. “What Mr. Garcia, or any other foreign applicant, does with his license after licensure must comport with federal regulations and that is a matter strictly between him and the federal government.”

[PHOTOS: From the Family Photos of an Undocumented Immigrant]

The California Bar submitted its statement to the court shortly after President Obama ordered a stop to the deportation of certain undocumented youth, granting them work permits if they meet certain criteria. Obama’s order came just days after TIME’s publication of Jose Antonio Vargas’s story about being undocumented in the U.S.

While the new executive order does not apply to Garcia because of his age, he told MSNBC that he is nevertheless “overjoyed” for those who will benefit from it. He estimates that he will have to wait another five years for his own visa, at which point, he would be able to finally use his law license.  “That’s the state of our immigration system … [it’s] broken,”  he said. “It’s really painful.”

PHOTOS: Immigration Detention in Arizona