Make the Road New Jersey and Advocates Applaud Assembly Judiciary Committee’s Vote to Remove Barriers to Professional Licenses
(Trenton, NJ – July 20, 2020) – On Monday, July 20th, the Assembly Judiciary Committee, chaired by Assemblyman Raj Mukherji, voted A4225 out of committee by a 4-2 vote. The legislation, if approved, would remove barriers to occupational licenses for immigrant New Jerseyans. The bill passed the Senate with bipartisan support in June and now heads to a floor vote in the Assembly.
Estrella Rivas, member of Make the Road New Jersey said, “As a future doctor, I face barriers to obtaining an occupational license due to my immigration status at a moment when our state needs us most. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, we flew in nurses from around the country. But I’m right here, ready to serve. There are thousands of young people like me — watching the COVID-19 pandemic unfold, all the more eager to join the frontlines, and stuck in limbo. Today the Assembly Judiciary committee made a pivotal vote that makes us one step closer to ensuring all New Jerseyans, regardless of their federal immigration status, are able to contribute to our state. Thank you to Assemblyman Raj Mukherji, and members of the Assembly Judiciary Committee: Assemblywoman Carol A. Muphy, Assemblyman Nicholas Chiaravalloti, and Gordon M. Johnson.”
Donald Weinbaum, President of New Jersey Public Health Association said, “As we continue to respond to an unprecedented public health crisis, NJ needs to do everything possible to assist qualified professionals to enter the workforce and to retain those already practicing. The NJ Public Health Association looks forward to quick passage of this critical bill, which will help to address this need.”
“Highly trained and skilled immigrants are a source of expertise and can fulfill the need for highly sought-after healthcare professionals such as critical care nurses and respiratory therapists. Such licensed professionals were in high demand and the most at risk which led to a shortage in the workforce during the pandemic as many fell ill themselves. Yet it was those professionals who were needed to provide critical care and treatment for those who suffered the consequences of having contracted COVID-19,” said Alexis Rean-Walker, Health Professionals & Allied (HPAE) Secretary-Treasurer.
Audrey Fish, president of The New Jersey Council of Teachers of English (NJCTE), said, “The board of the New Jersey Council of Teachers of English proudly joins with other professional and labor organizations, educators, and community groups to support S2455/A4225. Thousands of immigrant young people across New Jersey are studying to become educators, yet citizenship requirements currently block their pathway to permanent licensure. We strongly support S2455/A4225 and opportunities for undocumented educators to use their training, knowledge, and experience to serve the young people in the state of New Jersey.”
Kevin Brown, Vice President and NJ State Director of 32BJ SEIU said, “Today’s successful vote in the Assembly Judiciary Committee to expand occupational licenses for immigrants is another critical step to make New Jersey a more fair and welcoming place for all. This legislation will help the state fill labor shortages in key essential professions, like health care and teaching. Thank you to Assemblyman Mukherji and all sponsors for helping to move this bill forward. We urge the Assembly to put this bill up for a full floor vote and be one step closer to strengthening opportunities for our immigrant sisters and brothers.”
“We at the Center for Immigration Law at Rutgers Law School applaud the Assembly for passing A4225. In so doing, New Jersey is the first state on the East Coast and the fourth in the country (following California, Nevada, and New Mexico) to ensure that the state benefits from the skills and talents of qualified professionals, regardless of immigration status,” said Rose Cuison-Villazor, Director, Center for Immigration Law, Policy and Justice
“As a professor and Director of the Center for Undocumented Students at Saint Peter’s University, I witness how our students pursue their studies with passion and hope. Passion in being students, in the Jesuit tradition, who are for and with others. And with hope that one day their brilliance, humanity, and labor are recognized by the state they’ve already given so much to. With the passage of A4225/S2455, students will be able to fully put to use their training, further help their families and contribute to their communities, and realize their dreams. I am grateful to the immigrant youth leaders and organizers who made this win happen,” said Dr. Jennifer Ayala, Professor of Education, St. Peter’s University and Director of the Center of Undocumented Students at St. Peter’s University.
“Since 2008, at Rutgers Future Scholars, we have offered young people the hope and opportunity of a college education regardless of immigration status. We remained hopeful we could fulfill the promises we made to them in 7th grade that as long as they worked hard and dreamed big. Rutgers Future Scholars could become nurses, doctors, engineers, teachers, anything their hearts desired. But they couldn’t do it alone and today we are one step closer to these dreams being realized,” said Aramis Gutierrez, Director of Rutgers Future Scholars.
Itzel Hernandez, Immigrant Rights Organizer – American Friends Service Committee said, “Granting access to occupational licenses to immigrants in New Jersey will help us tackle the shortage of healthcare workers in our state. Legislation like A-4225/S-2455 is a crucial next step, following the passage of alternative financial aid, to ensure students will be able to take full advantage of their educational opportunities. More importantly, it continues to lead towards becoming a more inclusive and welcoming state to all residents regardless of immigration status.”
“As New Jersey grapples with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to confront the existing structural inequalities that impact immigrant, low-income communities of color disproportionally, expanding access to professional and occupational licenses get us one step closer towards ensuring that all New Jerseyans, regardless of immigration status, have access to equitable opportunities, thus strengthening our state and our economy. We urge the NJ Legislature to pass S2455/A4225 and for Governor Murphy to sign this bill into law,” said Sarah Fajardo, Policy Director for the American Civil Liberties of New Jersey.
“Reducing discriminatory barriers to occupational and professional licensing will not only benefit immigrant workers and families, but is also an important step toward a stronger and more equitable New Jersey workforce and economy. NJPP applauds the Assembly Judiciary Committee for taking action on this bill,” said Vineeta Kapahi, Policy Analyst at New Jersey Policy Perspective.
Rev. Dr. Robin Tanner, Beacon Unitarian Universalist Congregation, said, “The essential promises of New Jersey remain a place where all residents are given life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Core to this is the ability to use gifts for the whole of our communities. Opening professional licenses to all residents will ensure our communities can welcome much needed professionals such as nurses into our network of support. I urge the NJ Legislature to pass S2455/A4225 and for Governor Murphy to sign this bill into law.”
Lorraine Goodman, Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc. (LALDEF), said, “The United States of America has long been a place where immigrants with ability, ingenuity, and even genius have applied their skills towards making this country a leader in nearly every field imaginable – from the arts to foreign policy, from literature to medicine, from music to technology. By providing occupational licenses to trained immigrants, we narrow the skills-gap, grow our economy, and benefit our communities — especially in an environment where we need all the doctors, teachers, nurses, HVAC technicians, and respiratory therapists available. This is not just compassionate — it makes economic sense. It is not just right — it is necessary. It is not just sensible — it is critical. It is the definition of what it means to be American.”