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  • Hector Amezcua /

    Sergio Garcia talks to supporters after the undocumented immigrant was sworn in as a lawyer by Chief Justice Cruz Reynoso to practice law in California at the California State Capitol in sacramento on Saturday, Feb. 1, 2014.

  • Hector Amezcua /

    Albertina Garcia, mother of Sergio Garcia, watches her son sworn in by Chief Justice Cruz Reynoso to practice law at the California State Capitol on Saturday, Feb. 1, 2014. The state Supreme Court ruled Jan. 2 that Sergio Garcia can be licensed as a practicing attorney.

  • Hector Amezcua /

Lawyer’s struggle ends in triumph

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014 - 12:00 am
Last Modified: Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014 - 7:39 am

In 2011, Sergio Garcia’s ex-farmworker parents in the Butte County community of Durham held a lavish party for the new lawyer in town. Garcia, a graduate of Cal Northern School of Law in Chico, had just passed the state bar exam. His parents rented a limo and party room. Local Spanish-language radio celebrated his achievement.

But then the California Supreme Court stepped in and put Garcia’s law license on hold. It asked the State Bar of California to show cause for why Garcia, an undocumented immigrant who first came to California at the age of 17 months, should be allowed to practice law.

On Saturday, Garcia was officially certified as a member of the legal profession in California. He was sworn in at the state Capitol by Cruz Reynoso, a former associate justice of the state Supreme Court. The ceremony capped a three-year legal saga for Garcia.

On Jan. 2, the state high court ruled that Garcia, 36, had met the requirements of “good moral character” to legally work as an attorney in California. The ruling was believed to be the first time a state knowingly allowed someone lacking legal residency to practice law.

Garcia’s father, Salvador Covarrubias, earned U.S. citizenship in 1994. His mother, Albertina Garcia, is a legal permanent resident, and three other siblings are American-born citizens. Nineteen years ago, Garcia applied for an immigration green card allowing permanent residency and the legal right to work. Immigration authorities have yet to rule on his application.

Last year, state lawmakers passed legislation allowing undocumented immigrants who pass the California bar to practice law.

Garcia says he hopes to work on civil litigation cases, including auto accidents and debt negotiation, and immigration and criminal matters.

On Saturday, he announced a youth scholarship fund for his Sergio C. Garcia Foundation, which declares a “mission of supporting our youth independently of their background as long as they have the will, drive and need to succeed.”

Call The Bee’s Peter Hecht, (916) 326-5539.

Read more articles by Peter Hecht

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