Californians are disappointed but not surprised that one of the 805 new laws the state passed in 2012 will allow illegal aliens to practice law. Once the Legislature approved AB 1024, Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature was ensured. The California Supreme Court’s OK, one of its first actions in 2013, was inevitable.
The back story: Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, introduced so-called urgency legislation on behalf of the California Latino Legislative Caucus. AB 1024 passed 62-4 in the Assembly and 29-5 in the Senate. Originally, Brown claimed to have no position; Californians did not vote on the measure.
One wonders what motivated Brown. When he graduated from Yale Law School in 1964, illegal immigration advocacy was a rarity. Brown’s approval among California voters is at an all-time high. Whether or not Brown signed AB 1024, his standing among Democrats and Hispanics is solid. Brown, widely anticipated to run for re-election, is a shoo-in. In other words, Brown’s signature gained him nothing politically.
On the other hand, Brown had multiple reasons to veto AB 1024. Sergio Garcia, the illegal immigrant in question, has been living in the United States for 20 years, fully aware that he was breaking a law. Garcia probably never paid taxes, and he most likely falsified his identity and drove without a license. Garcia’s continuous two-decade presence in the United States represents an ongoing violation of federal immigration law. Nevertheless, the California Committee of Bar Examiners inexplicably found that Garcia had “demonstrated outstanding moral character.”
Garcia has influential friends in high places. The ACLU, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund and the National Council of La Raza filed briefs supporting Garcia. They relied on the familiar DREAMer tale; Garcia first came to the United States unwittingly when he was a 9-year-old child. Garcia’s advocates also included California’s major public law schools, which wrote letters of support.
Law schools and the American Bar Association overwhelmingly back comprehensive immigration reform. Although they would couch their words, the ABA supports granting amnesty to 12 million to 20 million illegal immigrants. The ABA’s Commission on Immigration has an extensive network of pro bono sources dedicated to, according to its website, “Ensure fair treatment and full due process rights for immigrants and refugees within the United States.” While some of their work is noble, much of it conflicts with Americans’ best interests.
The South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project helps asylees, many of whom have made false claims, to prepare their applications and their testimony, which will increase their chances of a successful hearing. Seattle’s Volunteer Advocates for Immigrant Justice provides in its own words, “In-depth training, mentoring, resources, support and guidance throughout the duration of each case” to unaccompanied illegal immigrant minors. San Diego’s Immigration Justice Project writes motions and briefs on behalf of illegal immigrants. IJP makes available to its clients translators who speak Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Tagalog, Somali and Arabic.
The ultimate outcome of Garcia’s case is still up in the air. Garcia can’t lawfully be hired. The Supreme Court agreed that no law firm, individual practice, government entity or corporation can offer Garcia a job.
Whether Garcia could set up his own practice and, for a fee, advise other illegal immigrants on legal matters that theoretically could include how they, too, can skirt the immigration system is also unclear. The Supreme Court and the federal government say no, but the Committee of Bar Examiners says yes.
Blame Brown for his outrageous complicity in the Garcia incident. Brown’s old school Yale education should have taught him better. But Brown’s 40-year California political career in that coincided with dramatic increases in the state’s legal and illegal immigrant populations, has unlearned him.
Brown’s advocacy put illegal immigrant Garcia above the law and set a bad precedent that other states may follow.
— Joe Guzzardi has written editorial columns — mostly about immigration and related social issues — since 1987 and is a senior writing fellow for Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS). He can be reached at email@example.com.