Make the Road New Jersey, Immigrant Youth, Advocates and Academics Applaud Senate Vote in Favor of Professional License Legislation
Bill to Remove Immigration Status Requirements from Professional and Occupational Licenses in New Jersey Passes Senate with Bipartisan Support
Trenton, NJ – June 29, 2020: In response to the New Jersey State Senate bipartisan approval today of S2455, legislation that would remove barriers to occupational licenses for immigrant New Jerseyans, advocacy organizations, including Make the Road New Jersey, the ACLU-NJ, New Jersey Policy Perspective, Wind of the Spirit and academics from St Peter’s University and Rutgers Law issued the following statements:
“Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court gave Dreamers like me some much needed relief, and today New Jersey has taken a significant step by passing legislation out of committee that will remove arbitrary restrictions on access to professional licenses for noncitizens. Today, I’m one step closer to being able to pursue my career when I graduate. New Jersey stands to benefit when more people are able to work in health care, education and other key frontline professions where there are labor shortages. I thank Senator Pou and Senator Cryan for their leadership and urge the Assembly to pass this bill without delay,” said Erika Martinez of Make the Road New Jersey.
“By eliminating immigration barriers to occupational licenses, this bill promotes equity in New Jersey’s economy and expands access to countless professional opportunities. This is an important step toward ending discrimination based on immigration status and building a stronger workforce and economy for all New Jerseyans. NJPP applauds the New Jersey Senate for spearheading this critical issue,” said Vineeta Kapahi, Policy Analyst at New Jersey Policy Perspective
“New Jersey’s behavioral healthcare workforce is strengthened by immigrants. Their contributions are enormously appreciated, welcomed and necessary to meet the needs of our residents,” said Debra L. Wentz, PhD, President and Chief Executive Officer NJAMHAA, Inc.
“Today, S2455 has passed the New Jersey Senate Chamber and is a step closer to Governor Murphy’s desk for signing. Thanks to the efforts of DACA, TPS and other immigrant organizers, the state of NJ expands professional licenses to all NJ residents independent of immigration status. The State of NJ is on the right track to full economic recovery. The expansion of professional licensing will address critical medical-labor shortages during COVID19, as well as shortages in blue-collar trades here in NJ. Our community, which contributes hundreds of millions in tax revenue every year, will contribute even further to our state’s crucial economic recovery. The Supreme Court’s DACA decision is a temporary victory. The Trump Administration is certain to once again dismantle the program. The Legislature’s passing of S2455 will grant protections for at-risk DACA youth and TPS holders who have worked hard to succeed in their fields, and will be able to continue in these fields thanks to the unrelenting efforts of immigrant organizers who have been heard and recognized today,” said Cinthia Osorio, Wind of the Spirit – Immigrant Collective of Morris County
“We celebrate the passage of S2455 and urge the Assembly to follow suit with A4225. Every NJ resident deserves access to occupational licenses regardless of immigration status. At a time when NJ is suffering from a shortage of nurses, doctors and teachers expanding access to occupational licenses is in the best interest of every New Jerseyan and ensures our state’s recovery. Legislation like S2455 and A4225 are needed next steps to making NJ a more welcoming and inclusive place for everyone,” said Itzel Hernandez, American Friends Service Committee
“New Jersey has taken a step forward in helping our undocumented students and community. As an educator, I would watch my undocumented-students work tirelessly studying for their medical, law, and other professional degrees but were scared they might never be able to practice. Immigration status should not be a barrier to obtaining a professional license and pursuing the American dream. Today, no undocumented students will ever be uncertain or fear they might never use their degree because of state restrictions,” said Maria J. Zamora Program Manager, Office of Undocumented Students Services, Rutgers University- Newark
Background: S2455 would permit qualified individuals regardless of federal immigration status to obtain an occupational license, pursue their profession and contribute to New Jersey. As New Jersey faces an unprecedented public health crisis, and a dearth of health care and other essential professionals to meet the need, it is all the more critical that S2455 move forward without delay.
Thousands of immigrant young people across New Jersey are studying to become nurses, physical therapists, teachers, all occupations that require an occupational license. Out-of-date and unconstitutional citizenship requirements currently block their pathway to licensure. Removing barriers to occupational licenses for qualified individuals can fill urgent state labor shortages and retain skilled immigrants. Our state’s economy will reap the benefits of increased income, spending, and tax revenue from better-paying jobs, which is all the more important as the state makes plans to reopen.
Even before the pandemic, the New Jersey Department of Labor identified seven business areas in high need of workers — including financial services, transportation, healthcare — all areas that largely require occupational licenses. Our state is also facing a teacher shortage. A recent New Jersey Policy Perspective report found a 49 percent decrease between 2009 and 2018 in candidates completing teaching preparation programs. To ensure our state’s economic growth, to provide meaningful career and occupational opportunities for our residents – and to address the worst public health crisis in a generation – it is vital for New Jersey to act.
Right now, New Jersey has the second highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country and the need for healthcare workers continues to grow. Our state is leading the efforts to license qualified individuals to fight the COVID-19 crisis, but we must do more to fill medical worker shortages. New Jersey will have an estimated shortage of 11,400 nurses by 2030 – the third largest nursing shortage in the country. At the same time, 14,000 immigrants in New Jersey have an under-utilized health-related undergraduate degree, of which 6,000 are immigrants with a nursing degree.