The California Supreme Court granted a license Thursday to Sergio Garcia, 36, in a unanimous decision.
Garcia, who attended law school and passed the state bar exam while working in a grocery store and on farms, can begin practicing law immediately.
Garcia said he hoped the decision would serve as a “beacon of hope” to others in the same situation. He plans to be a personal injury attorney in his hometown of Chico.
It’s the latest in a string of legal and legislative victories for people who are in the country without permission. Other successes include the creation of a path to citizenship for many young people and the granting of driver’s licenses in some states.
“This is a bright new day in California history and bodes well for the future,” the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles said in a statement.
The court sided with state officials in the case, which pitted them against the White House over a 1996 federal law that bars people who are in the U.S. illegally from receiving professional licenses from government agencies or with the use of public money, unless state lawmakers vote otherwise.
Bill Hing, a law professor at the University of San Francisco, said the court made clear the only reason it granted Garcia’s request is that California recently approved a law that specifically authorizes the state to give law licenses to immigrants who are here illegally.