News digest: Illegal immigrant gets law license; clergyman freed from prison

January 2
CALIFORNIA
Illegal immigrantgets his law license

The California Supreme Court granted a law license Thursday to a man who has been living in the United States illegally for two decades, a ruling that advocates hope will open the door to immigrants seeking to enter other professions, such as medicine, nursing and accounting.

The court’s unanimous decision means Sergio 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.

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 country 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 it clear that the only reason it granted Garcia’s petition is that the legislature recently approved a law that specifically authorizes the state to give law licenses to immigrants who are here illegally. The law, inspired by Garcia’s situation, took effect Wednesday.

Garcia, 36, arrived in the U.S. as a teenager to pick almonds with his father, who was a permanent legal resident.

— Associated Press

PENNSYLVANIA
Catholic official freed after winning appeal

A Roman Catholic Church official who won an appeal of his landmark conviction in the priest child-abuse scandal left a Pennsylvania prison Thursday after 18 months behind bars.

A prison spokesman said Monsignor William Lynn was taken to a Philadelphia jail, where he was to be fitted with an electronic monitoring device. After that, he was to be released, probably to the custody of a family member.

Lynn, 62, was the first U.S. church official charged for hiding complaints that priests were molesting children. He was convicted of felony child endangerment, but the appeals court said the law that existed at the time didn’t cover people who didn’t directly supervise children.

— Associated Press

New chief for NYPD: William Bratton on Thursday took over the New York’s police department for the second time. The 66-year-old was sworn in by Mayor Bill de Blasio at the headquarters of the nation’s largest police force.

Arson suspected in Chinese Consulate fire: Federal officials said Thursday a fire at the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco was ignited at the front of the building, leading to an arson investigation and calls from the Chinese government for better protection of diplomats. No one was hurt in the Wednesday night blaze, which charred the building’s doorway and damaged the lobby.

Body found after Minneapolis apartment fire: Authorities said Thursday that they had discovered a body in the ruins of a Minneapolis apartment after a fire that left 14 people injured, three of them seriously. Authorities were looking at a possible natural gas leak as the cause of the explosion and fire that destroyed the three-story building Wednesday. Before the discovery of the body, authorities had said two people were unaccounted for.

— From news services

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