On Sept. 1, Gov. Phil Murphy signed a bill into law that would extend licensure eligibility to individuals with undocumented immigration status who meet all other requirements. The goal is to expand access to and fill thousands of skilled jobs requiring a professional or occupational license.
“New Jersey is stronger when everyone is given the opportunity to contribute, and everyone is given a chance to live their American Dream,” Murphy said. “This law sends a simple, powerful message that immigration status can no longer be used as an excuse to discriminate among equally educated, trained, and qualified individuals. As we look toward our shared economic future, we must ensure that no one is left behind, and everyone who puts forward the effort can succeed.”
Bill sponsors included NJ Assembly members Raj Mukherji (D-Hudson); Yvonne Lopez (D-Middlesex); and Gary Schaer (D-Bergen, Passaic).
“New Jersey’s 53,000 DACA-eligible residents, including nearly 17,000 active DACA status holders, pay more than $100 million in state and local taxes annually,” said Mukherji, chair of the Assembly Judiciary Committee. “They are risking their and their families’ lives everyday as front-line healthcare workers and in other essential jobs during the pandemic.”
By eliminating barriers to occupational licenses, the new law will enable qualified, trained, highly skilled, and hardworking Dreamers to fill critical worker shortages in New Jersey while contributing to the economy, Mukherji said.
A much-needed resource
“New Jersey, whose waters are home to Ellis Island, is celebrated for its diversity and thriving immigrant population,” Mukherji said. “If a DACA student – like several who testified before our committee – aspires to be a teacher, nurse, or physician and takes the MCATs, is admitted to and graduates from medical school, and completes a residency, we would be fools to deprive our communities of their hard-earned skills and talents while facing an unprecedented public health crisis.”
The bill levels the playing field for qualified undocumented immigrants to gain access to jobs that require a professional or occupational license.
“In the midst of the pandemic our state extended emergency licenses to qualified men and women that call New Jersey home but have not been able to work due to their immigration status,” said Senator Nellie Pou (D-Bergen, Passaic). “These front-line workers stepped up when our state needed them the most, and they should be able to take their exam and be licensed professionals, regardless of their immigration status, even after we defeat the virus.”
As required by federal law, states must affirmatively opt out of federal restrictions that bar undocumented immigrants from obtaining professional and occupational licenses.
“As an aspiring doctor, I faced barriers to pursuing a career in medicine due to my immigration status at a moment when our state needs us most,” said Estrella Rivas, Youth Leader at Make the Road New Jersey and third-year Premed student at Rutgers University.
Rivas continued: “Today, I no longer have to watch from the sidelines, I can pursue my degree and be there to provide aid to our most vulnerable New Jerseyans. This law takes away unconstitutional and unnecessary barriers to occupational licensure and ensures that all New Jerseyans, regardless of their immigration status, are able to contribute to our state and pursue our dreams whether it be as a doctor, a manicurist, CPA, nurse or one of the hundreds of licensed professions in New Jersey. Thank you to Gov. Murphy, Senator Nellie Pou, and Assemblyman Raj Mukherji for your leadership and unwavering support.”
For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.