And Justice For All…
The American Dream – it inspires both those born in the United States and those from other countries. However, the journey is sometimes riddled with potholes as complex laws and broken systems can impede an individual’s success. Just ask Sergio C. Garcia. His dream was to one-day practice law, but his illegal immigrant status would hinder his progress just as he had crossed the finish line. After a rigorous battle in the courts, in January of 2014 Garcia was able to fulfill his lifelong goal of becoming an attorney – making him the first undocumented immigrant to be admitted to the State Bar of California.
Born in Michoacán, Mexico on March 1, 1977, Garcia’s first came to the United States at just 17 months when his family entered the country without documentation. After about eight years living in the State of California, Garcia’s father would move the family back to Mexico. Garcia would not return to the U.S. until the age of 17. Even though his father later became a legal resident and sponsored Garcia’s application for legal residency almost 20 years ago – the application is still pending to this day.
It was during this return trip that Garcia would truly establish roots, attending law school in California and eventually graduating from Cal Northern School of Law in 2009. After passing the bar exam – on his first attempt – Garcia was finally seeing his dreams materialize; however, the celebration wouldn’t last long. A few weeks after being sworn into the bar and actively practicing law – he already had 15 clients he was representing – Garcia received a letter informing him that his admission to the bar was an error. Due to his illegal immigrant status Garcia’s admission was retracted.
“It was very, very hard for me to have to tell my family that the celebration we had meant nothing,” Garcia told CNN en Español. “It killed me inside to tell them that I really wasn’t a lawyer.” What ensued was a historical legal battle that was not only argued within the Supreme Court, but also in heated debates across the nation, with those who supported Garcia’s induction into the bar and those who opposed, claiming it would be immoral to let a person who was in the country illegally serve as an officer of the court.
Garcia garnered support from the State Bar, other attorneys and legal groups, and even California Attorney General Kamala Harris. After reviewing the facts, and letters written by Garcia supporters asserting his level of honesty and morality, the Committee of Bar Examiners determined that “Garcia met his burden of demonstrating that he possesses the requisite good moral character to qualify for a law license.”
Today, Garcia is the proud owner of Law Offices of Sergio C. Garcia in Chico, CA. Although he is still fighting for his “green card,” he says that he won’t be focusing on immigration law due to the imbroglio that it’s become, but has instead opted to practice personal injury law.
When he is not fighting for the little guys in court, he travels the country as an inspirational speaker spreading a profound message that has helped him persevere throughout his life.
His message – “It doesn’t matter what comes your way,” as told by Garcia to The Los Angeles Times. “You cannot give up. You may have to circumvent a barrier, but as long as you’re alive, there’s still hope and still a chance that you are going to reach that dream.”