California Supreme Court Holds that Undocumented Immigrants may Join State Bar

California’s Supreme Court ruled today that undocumented immigrant may join the state’s bar association. The ruling however is very limited in scope and may be of limited applicability outside the state. 


Sergio Garcia quest for admission into the bar association has garnered national attention. He had met all the eligibility criteria to be admitted, but for his undocumented status. The Department of Justice had issued a letter opposing his admission, which several advocacy groups, including AILA, filed amici briefs advocating for his admission. 
The main reasoning behind the ruling is although 8 USC 1621 bars an undocumented immigrant from holding a professional license, the section allows states to grant exceptions under their own rules. The court ruled that such exception was allowed in the State of California since the legislature has passed its own immigration reform law, which entered into effect on January 1, 2014. 
This decision should be heralded and followed by other states. We will await our own Supreme Court’s decision regarding the issue.