Profile in Brief: Lawrence Garcia - Heading up HBAM

By John Minnis
Legal News

With six out of 10 Michiganders in favor of Arizona's new immigration law and Border Patrol agents prowling the aisles of the Lakeshore Limited Amtrak train between Chicago and New York, hauling away Hispanic-looking people without adequate documentation, attorney Lawrence T. Garcia has his work cut out for him.

As president of the Hispanic Bar Association of Michigan, Garcia is fighting to keep Michigan lawmakers from adopting a "copycat" immigration law like Arizona's. In a recent letter to the editor in The Detroit News, Garcia wrote:

"The Arizona law's treatment of illegal aliens is unconstitutional, as it offends the Supremacy Clause and the federal government's pre-emption of all issues involving our nation's borders, including immigration. ... Latinos who are in the U.S. legally look identical to those who are here without documentation, but both will be more likely suspected because of their Hispanic appearance. Discrimination on these grounds is fundamentally unconstitutional and un-American."

The son of doctors, Garcia, 40, comes from a solid, middle-class background. His father is from South America, his mother an Irish-American from Richmond, Va. The son is proud of both heritages, and is just as apt to celebrate his Colombian roots as he is to display his Murray clan tartan.

Born in Memphis, Garcia moved a lot with his parents, who followed medical research grants. He earned his bachelor's degree at Duke University and his juris doctor at the University of Michigan Law School, where he was fortunate to get in as a Michigan resident.

Now a partner in his own firm, Turfe & Garcia, Garcia's early exposure to medicine is evident as he frequently writes and lectures on medical legal matters and on matters of particular concern to healthcare professionals.

But it is his work in the Hispanic community that takes most of his time, both professionally and personally.

"A lot of my weekends and nights I'm networking in the Hispanic community," Garcia says. "Since I'm not married, it's kind of my family."

Garcia has been involved in the Hispanic Bar Association for five years and president of the organization for three years.

The Hispanic Bar Association of Michigan was formed in 1991, and with 70 to 80 members it is doing better than ever. Garcia said much of the affinity bar's growth is due to the work of the State Bar of Michigan and Candace Crowley, director of external development, in particular.

"Membership had dwindled down to 21," Garcia recalls. "They did strategic planning and an Internet poll. We've more that tripled the membership since then. They really lit the fire."

Besides securing pro bono representation and internships for Hispanics, HBAM has two major events a year.

"¡Unidos Ganamos! United We Stand" is an annual Hispanic celebration and political rally. Held in the summer, Hispanic and other political candidates are invited to speak.

Besides the rallies, parties and fundraisers, the most important role of the Hispanic Bar Association of Michigan is connecting the Hispanic legal community.

"I think the biggest advantage of the bar is networking," Garcia says, "but I think that's true of every affinity bar."

Published: Wed, Sep 8, 2010

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