USA Today reports on the latest head-scratcher facing the California court system: should illegal immigrants be allowed to practice law?
“Sergio Garcia’s family illegally crossed into the USA from Mexico when he was 17 months old,” USA Today explains, “and he went on to graduate from Chico State University and Cal Northern School of Law. He took the state bar exam in July 2009 and passed it but was told he could not join the state bar – a standard requirement for all practicing attorneys – because he had checked a box on his application that said he was in the country illegally.”
The California Supreme Court is now mulling this over, after the state Bar Association encouraged the licensing of “DREAM Act” illegals as attorneys. It would purportedly be a waste of good legal talent to deny them. In a similar case in Florida, three former Bar Association presidents argued that the resilience displayed by illegal alien law students – who had to overcome “language barriers, cultural differences, inadequate finances,” and of course immigration law enforcement – made them exceptionally good candidates for the legal profession.
On the other hand, as Ira Mehlman of the Federation for American Immigration Reform noted, “there’s a certain level of absurdity to someone trying to practice law when they’re in violation of the law.”
The process of re-defining American citizenship is all about learning to swallow such absurdities. President Obama advanced this process considerably by using executive power to create a new form of quasi-citizenship, in which some vestigial recognition of less-than-optimal immigration status is made, but the beneficiaries aren’t really “illegal” any more.
From here, it’s simply a matter of deciding how many benefits of citizenship should be arbitrarily withheld from the quasi-citizen. His presence in the United States is no longer regarded as a legal violation, and he faces no effective threat of enforcement or deportation. In fact, the Administration has openly stated its refusal to enforce the few violations of immigration law that remain theoretically possible for a large portion of the “undocumented” population. We are now negotiating the precise status of these quasi-citizens, not their presence.
With that understanding, why shouldn’t they be allowed to take jobs from full American citizens in the legal profession? Surely the work permits granted to illegal aliens will be tested against many other occupations. There’s no reason for lawyers to be immune. The only offenses that could still cause quasi-citizenship to be revoked are also offenses that would cause a lawyer to be disbarred.
Once we have licensed illegal alien lawyers, we can proceed to eliminating the last arbitrary rules of status enforced against quasi-citizens, such as denying them the sacred right to vote. Why should someone brought to the United States by their parents as a child be forever denied the franchise? How can we license them as lawyers, while denying them electoral influence over how the law is crafted? Quasi-citizenship has a long evolutionary path ahead of it.