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Should undocumented immigrant get a law license? California court to decide.

The California Supreme Court heard oral arguments Wednesday about whether it should grant a law license to Sergio Garcia, who put himself through college and law school and passed the bar exam.

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Sergio Garcia poses for photographs in San Francisco, Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2013.

Jeff Chiu/AP

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Go to law school, pass the bar, get a license to practice law: It’s a path that thousands of Americans have followed. Now, several immigrants – who don’t have citizenship or a green card but have been able to take the first two steps – say that they, too, should be allowed to practice law.

The California Supreme Court heard oral arguments Wednesday about whether it should grant a law license to Sergio Garcia. He was brought by his family from Mexico as a baby, returned to Mexico for part of his youth, and then came back to the United States at age 17 when his father (now a US citizen) became a permanent resident.

Mr. Garcia’s visa application was approved in 1995, but he is still waiting to receive it. He put himself through college and law school and passed the California bar exam.

Garcia’s case and similar ones in Florida and New York exemplify one way that state and local authorities are wrestling with what to do as an increasing number of undocumented immigrants who have been living and attending school in the US bump up against barriers to productive participation in their chosen careers.

In the past decade, even before they were called “DREAMers,” these immigrants accessed more education, so states will keep encountering cases “until we find a fix to the current inadequacies in our federal immigration system,” says Nicholas Espiritu, a staff attorney at the National Immigration Law Center in Los Angeles, which joined in a brief supporting Garcia. “These individuals have waited long enough, and we as a society are served by letting them give back to the state and the country,” he says.

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