OPINION

California Advances State-Level Amnesty By Licensing Illegal Alien Lawyers

NOGALES, MEXICO - MARCH 10:  An immigrant walks near the U.S.-Mexico border after eating breakfast at the Kino Border Initiative center for migrants March 10, 2013 in Nogales, Mexico. The center feeds hundreds of meals per day to immigrants recently deported from the United States and those about to attempt to cross into the U.S. illegally.  (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

NOGALES, MEXICO - MARCH 10: An immigrant walks near the U.S.-Mexico border after eating breakfast at the Kino Border Initiative center for migrants March 10, 2013 in Nogales, Mexico. The center feeds hundreds of meals per day to immigrants recently deported from the United States and those about to attempt to cross into the U.S. illegally. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)  (2013 Getty Images)

By authorizing illegal aliens to become licensed attorneys, California has once again blurred the line between “immigrant” and “illegal alien,” advancing a creeping state-level amnesty that encourages more and more people to come to the United States illegally.

This time the issue involved Sergio Garcia, an illegal alien from Mexico who has crossed the U.S. border illegally at least twice, reportedly once as an infant and once again at age 17 after having returned home at age 9. His father, who also had entered illegally, obtained legal status through the 1986 amnesty. In 1994, when Sergio was reportedly just a few months shy of 18, the elder Garcia petitioned to legalize Sergio — something that citizens and permanent residents can do for their family members wishing to immigrate to the country.

If the Obama administration decided to enforce federal immigration law, Garcia could potentially face many years in jail and significant fines.

- Jon Feere

But Sergio was already in the United States illegally. And visa processing isn’t instantaneous. In fact, the type of visa he is seeking has a waiting period that is often lengthy due to high demand. Instead of returning home and waiting for his visa to become available, Sergio apparently concluded that he was above the law and remained in the United States illegally. The California Supreme Court has nevertheless decided that he is eligible to be a licensed attorney, finding that a federal law that was written to prevent states from issuing professional licenses and other benefits to illegal aliens (8 U.S.C. § 1621) contains a clause that swallows the entire law.

Put another way, federal law bars states from issuing professional licenses to illegal aliens… at least until states pass a law authorizing the issuance of such licenses. Yep, you read that right. On January 1, 2014 a new California law took advantage of that loophole, clearing a pathway to make Garcia a licensed attorney.

In any event, new lawyers must take an oath to “support the Constitution of the United States” and must also pass an ethics exam. The California Supreme Court explained in its holding that it “assumes” that a licensed illegal alien “will make all necessary inquiries and take appropriate steps to comply with applicable legal restrictions.” The Committee of Bar Examiners explained that “there is no reason to believe” Garcia “cannot take the oath and faithfully uphold his duties as an attorney.”

It is unclear why the court and the bar examiners would assume such things. Illegal immigrants regularly fail to comply with a whole host of laws. Within Garcia’s own circle of family and friends one can identify a variety of potential legal violations, if media reports are accurate.

Garcia admits to working a number of jobs prior to law school, and depending on how he obtained the work, he may be liable under False Personation of a U.S. Citizen (18 U.S.C. § 911), Fraud and False Statements (18 U.S.C. § 1001), and Social Security Fraud (42 U.S.C. § 408), just to name a few examples. We estimate that nearly half of working illegal aliens have filled out I-9 Forms and are likely in violation of these statutes. If the Obama administration decided to enforce federal immigration law, Garcia could potentially face many years in jail and significant fines. It is important to remember that these crimes often create real victims.

Amnesty advocates spread the cliché that we need illegal aliens because they “do jobs Americans won’t do.” These advocates seem to believe that Americans aren’t interested in becoming lawyers. But the fact is there are not enough legal jobs for law school graduates. The American Bar Association reported that barely half of all 2012 law school graduates had full time, long-term legal jobs nine months after graduation.

Of course, there’s no evidence that any profession is in need of illegal alien laborers. Americans in non-legal fields have been making this argument for years, finding it contemptible that Congress has been pushing to double legal immigration at a time when tens of millions of Americans are unemployed. Perhaps when American lawyers start seeing scarce jobs go to people who don’t belong in the country and who are perhaps not going to be reporting taxes (and thereby willing to work for less), the legal field will come to the defense of legal residents. Unfortunately, the American Bar Association currently supports amnesty for illegal aliens and significant increases in legal immigration.

Congress should step up and clarify 8 U.S.C. § 1621. Otherwise, pro-illegal immigration states like California will grant all sorts of benefits to illegal aliens in an effort to undermine federal enforcement efforts.

Jon Feere is a legal policy analyst from the Center for Immigration Studies, an independent, non-partisan, non-profit research organization founded in 1985. 

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