CNN Congratulates Illegal Immigrant on His Receiving Law License

An illegal immigrant can now practice law in California, and CNN marginalized the controversy on Friday's New Day by giving new lawyer Sergio Garcia a soft interview with little voice from his critics.

After reporting that the state's supreme court ruled in Garcia's favor, co-host John Berman congratulated Garcia and asked him to share "what this decision means to you, personally." CNN prodded him to expound on the importance of his victory.

"[G]iven all the obstacles that you faced since coming to the U.S., getting your visa and being able to practice law after getting your degree here, why was it so important for you to persist and to continue to try to work here in the U.S.?" co-host Ana Cabrera teed up Garcia.

And Berman empathized with Garcia's admission that he was "stubborn" in pursuing his dream: "Stubborn is a good thing to be, dealing with the immigration system, I think that's for sure."

It wasn't until late in the interview where CNN quoted Garcia's critics, and it was the only tough question he received. Berman pressed him, "Listen, there are critics who look at this and say there's an irony here, that you are now able to practice law even though you don't really have legal status here. What do you say about that irony?"

Berman congratulated Garcia again at the interview's end and offered more praise for him: "spoken like a man who has truly dealt with some frustrations over the last decade-plus."

Below is a transcript of the segment:

CNN
NEW DAY
1/3/14
[8:49 a.m. EST]

JOHN BERMAN: A green card is no longer a prerequisite for a law license in California. You heard that right. Thursday, the California supreme court ruled in favor of Sergio Garcia, a 36-year-old undocumented immigrant from Mexico. Garcia attended law school, he passed the bar in California but he was not able to get his law license because of his immigration status. Garcia applied for a visa when he was 17, but 19 years later the visa still hadn't been processed, still hasn't been processed. Thursday's decision marks the end of this long legal battle for Garcia. His critics argue someone without legal status should not be allowed to practice law, but for Garcia, obviously, this decision is a dream come true. So he joins us now from Sacramento. Thank you so much for being with us and congratulations.

SERGIO GARCIA, undocumented immigrant granted law license: Thank you so much and thank you for the invitation.

BERMAN: You've waited an awful long time for this, you graduated law school in 2009. So I wonder if you can you tell us what this decision means to you, personally?

GARCIA: Well, basically, it will allow me to fulfill one of my two dreams. I always wanted to be a licensed attorney, and I hope to one day be a U.S. citizen. But for now, at least one of my two dreams is now going to be possible and I'm just so super excited. I'm tired. I haven't slept much, but I'm super excited to finally be able to fulfill one of my dreams.

MICHAELA PEREIRA: Can we talk to you about the 19 years? I think many people would not understand why it took so long. We understand you've been approved for your green card, but it hasn't been processed. You don't have it in your hand. Why is that?

GARCIA: Well, unfortunately I would be among those people who don't understand why it takes 19 years, or is likely to take 25 years, and just, I think, highlights the problems with our immigration system and how the system's broken and it really, I don't think it should take that long to be able to process a green card, be able to tell somebody whether they can lawfully stay in this country or not. And so I've kind of fallen through the cracks because I was two weeks too old to get my green card at the time so I aged out, as they say. And now I'm in a category that takes about 25 years in order to get a green card, even though I'm the son of a U.S. Citizen.

ANA CABRERA: Wow. So Sergio, I'm curious, again, given all the obstacles that you faced since coming to the U.S., getting your visa and being able to practice law after getting your degree here, why was it so important for you to persist and to continue to try to work here in the U.S.?

GARCIA: Well, listen, I wasn't smart enough. I put all my eggs into one basket. This whole idea of being an attorney was the only idea I had going, and so 20 years of working on that dream, I couldn't really afford to just give up on it, so that and I a little bit stubborn anyway.

(Laughter)

BERMAN: Stubborn is a good thing to be, dealing with the immigration system, I think that's for sure. Listen, there are critics who look at this and say there's an irony here, that you are now able to practice law even though you don't really have legal status here. What do you say about that irony?

GARCIA: Well, I would say, you know, at first blush, that might be the easiest response or the easiest critic to make, the criticism to make, but in reality, if you look at all the facts, I was brought here as a minor, I immediately applied for a green card, that has been approved, and I've been waiting for 19 years. I if somebody's frustrated with that or has some issues with that, I think the federal government is the one to be addressing. And talking to both Republicans and Democrats in D.C., and telling them to get their act together and fix this immigration system.

PEREIRA: Do you plan on practicing immigration law?

GARCIA: Oh, no. That's just too messed up. I don't want to be involved with that.

(Laughter)

CABRERA: What type of clients do you anticipate having then?

GARCIA: You know, I love being in front of the judge and jury so just some civil litigation, you know, personal injury, debt negotiation, anything that's civil, but no, I intend in the future to hopefully have an immigration attorney on staff, but not for me. Just that's not the area for me. 19 years waiting and it's still not fixed, so I'm not interested in that.

BERMAN: Sergio Garcia, thank you for being with us, congratulations. And again, spoken like a man who has truly dealt with some frustrations over the last decade-plus.

PEREIRA: We know there's a backlog, but a 20-year backlog, that is extraordinary.

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014