Morons of the Week: California State Bar Association Turns Into ICE

I thought lawyers usually became criminals after joining the bar but if you are undocumented, you need to try harder.

I know several attorneys who are undocumented but passed the bar and practice in California. Hence, it thoroughly disgusts me that the California state bar has started to act like Immigration and Customs Enforcement and is requiring hard-working undocumented student law graduates for their “papers please.”

Sergio Garcia was brought to this country from Mexico when he was 17 months old by his parents, the Daily Journal (sub. req.) reports in a lengthy article. The state bar only recently began asking applicants about their immigration status, so there apparently are other California lawyers already admitted to practice (the newspaper talked to at least one) who aren’t legal residents of the U.S.

Sponsored by a relative, Garcia says he’s been waiting 17 years for a green card and expects it could be another 15 years before he gets one. Noting that the vetting process is supposed to be about character and fitness to practice, he says “What was my moral duty at 17 months?”

Read more here.

Let’s be real. This isn’t just a bar on undocumented immigrant lawyers. It’s a bar on people of color lawyers.

I know lawyers who have admitted to using drugs and passed the “character and fitness” test. I know lawyers who have been arrested more than a dozen times and still passed this so-called “character and fitness” test. But I suppose the bar is concerned more with “fraud” and the use of fraudulent documents than real crimes.

I don’t understand how being undocumented can negatively affect the “character and fitness” of the student. If anything, any undocumented immigrant who can get through the highly prohibitive cost of law school and pass the tough bar in the state of California has more character and fitness than the average American can ever fathom. Maybe that is the problem: we are too good for the bar association and they need to up their standards.

What’s more perplexing is that the California State Bar should know that being undocumented is not a permanent immutable condition. Oftentimes, becoming a lawyer or holding an advanced degree is the ticket to becoming legalized through an EB-2 or H-1B visa. A matriculated and undocumented law student graduate is also more likely to gain prosecutorial discretion and legally gain work authorization from DHS without having been admitted to the United States. So placing a bar on undocumented immigrants is highly counter-productive and hateful, making no sense at all.

It’s morally despicable that someone is on trial for being undocumented when this country should be on trial for creating conditions that compel people to come here without papers and then stay here without papers so they are not separated from their loved ones.

I can’t wait to be in front of this panel.

Posted on by Prerna in Immigration