The unanimous ruling by the California Supreme Court on Thursday to allow a Mexican immigrant to practice law in the state could ease the way for others in similar circumstances, immigrant-rights advocates say.
The ruling was the first of its kind in the nation, and decisions in similar cases are pending in New York and Florida.
The Legislature acted after the justices in a September hearing indicated that federal rules required that they deny Garcia, 36, a law license. According to a 1996 federal law, states may not award public benefits to immigrants who lack legal status unless legislatures specifically approved exemptions.
The law signed by Gov.
James Wagstaffe, who represented the state bar in its efforts to admit Garcia, called Thursday's decision "a landmark case in favor of inclusiveness."
"It is not just about undocumented immigrants," Wagstaffe said. "It is also saying we are going to decide the qualifications of a lawyer based on individual character, not based on class."