The high court effectively upheld a state law passed last fall and supported by Gov. Jerry Brown that allows illegal immigrants to become licensed to practice law. The legislation was inspired by Garcia's case after the justices, in oral arguments, suggested they would be unable to rule in his favor because there was no state law overriding federal immigration laws.
"We conclude there is no state law or state public policy that would justify precluding undocumented immigrants, as a class from obtaining a law license in California," Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye wrote in the court's opinion.
The court suggested Garcia's ability to practice might be limited, that he might only be able to do pro bono work in the United States, the Los Angeles Times reported. The justices said Garcia would need to become familiar with regulations and to advise potential clients if his status might hurt their case.
Garcia, 36, lived in the United States with his parents for several years as a child, went back to Mexico and then returned to California at 17, the Times said. His father, who is now a U.S. citizen, applied for a green card for him in 1995, soon after his return, but he has yet to receive one.
After graduating from CalNorthern School of Law in Chico, Garcia passed the bar exam on his first try.