Make the Road New Jersey, Immigrant Youth, and Advocates Celebrate Passage of Law to Extend Professional Licenses to Immigrants
Bill to Remove Immigration Status Requirements from Professional and Occupational Licenses in New Jersey Passes in New Jersey Legislature, Moves to Governor’s Desk
New Jersey to Become First State on East Coast to Pass Law, Days after Trump Administration Attacks DACA and In the Midst of Healthcare Labor Shortages Due to Pandemic
(Trenton, NJ – July 30, 2020) A4225, a bill to remove restrictions imposed against immigrant New Jerseyans seeking occupational licenses, passed a key final hurdle today, when the New Jersey General Assembly voted to support the measure with a 47 to 26 majority. It had previously passed through the Senate as S2455, enjoying broad and bipartisan support. The bill will be delivered to Governor Murphy’s desk soon. He is expected to sign it.
New Jersey has become the first state on the east coast and the 15th state nationwide to remove citizenship or immigration status requirements from occupational licensure. This bill’s passage reinforces New Jersey’s commitment to fighting the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant agenda and comes just days after the Trump administration issued a memo severely limiting DACA and closing new applications to the program. Approximately 30,000 young people in New Jersey could qualify for DACA if the program reopens. Further, during the pandemic, New Jersey experienced a critical shortage in health care professionals. Under this bill, an estimated 13,600 immigrant healthcare workers could obtain licensure.
Federal law prohibits immigrants without lawful presence from obtaining occupational licenses unless state law states otherwise. Today’s victory is the result of two years of organizing by youth leaders at Make the Road New Jersey and allied immigrant organizations, along with the support of universities, professional associations and policy and advocacy organizations.
Ana Calderon, Make the Road New Jersey member and pre-med student at Rutgers University said: “Today, we made history by providing undocumented communities the opportunity to become nurses, physicians, manicurists, teachers, etc. We want to thank Senator Nellie Pou and Assemblyman Raj Mukherji for their leadership. New Jersey immigrants were loud and clear and today — even in the midst of another federal attack — we showed that we are here to stay.”
“New Jersey’s working families and the broader economy will be much stronger when all residents can pursue the careers for which they have trained. Eliminating discriminatory barriers to occupational licenses will promote the economic security and dignity of immigrants while bolstering the state’s workforce. This bill will also help fill workforce shortages in fields such as health care and education, which are critical to New Jersey’s recovery from the current pandemic. NJPP applauds the Legislature for taking a big step toward a more inclusive Garden State,” said Vineeta Kapahi, Policy Analyst, New Jersey Policy Perspective.
“Just as the federal administration announced its intentions to roll back DACA protections, New Jersey is opening the doors to opportunities for thousands of young immigrants to pursue their dreams of becoming doctors, nurses, occupational therapists, HVAC technicians, teachers, and more. Allowing more young professionals to pursue their careers here will contribute to our economy and ultimately benefit all New Jerseyans,” said Maneesha Kelkar, Interim Director of New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice.
“In this difficult economic time that so many New Jersey residents are working hard to keep their heads above water, we are encouraged by the legislature’s approval of this bill to expand occupational licenses for immigrants. This sends a strong message to our immigrant families that our state supports the skills and dedication they bring to enrich our state, so their families and our communities can thrive. We look forward to its swift and final passage into law.” said, Kevin Brown, Vice President and NJ State Director of 32BJ SEIU
Charlene Walker, Executive Director of Faith in New Jersey, said, “Today’s decision to expand access to occupational licenses has taken New Jersey one step closer to building the beloved community, one of opportunity, hope, justice, and love. As our loved ones realize their dreams of becoming nurses, doctors, teachers and more, their communities welcome their gifts. Gifts that will help to eliminate racial disparities within their fields and build a trusted network of support.”
“Our vision for New Jersey is a state where inclusion, diversity, and equity are valued, and where the workforce includes professionals from all cultures and backgrounds. The New Jersey Public Health Association applauds the passage of this important legislation, which moves us a step closer to this goal. As we continue to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, removing barriers to entry for qualified health and public health professionals is critical.” said Donald Weinbaum, President, New Jersey Public Health Association
“In these trying times, staffing critical behavioral health programs presents many challenges. This legislation provides one more avenue to assist providers of mental health and substance use treatment to ensure access to services is maintained for those in need.” said Debra L. Wentz, PhD, President and Chief Executive Officer of NJAMHAA, Inc.
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