To expand access to and fill thousands of skilled jobs requiring a professional or occupational license, the full Assembly voted 47-26-0 on Thursday giving final legislative approval to a bill (A-4225) that would extend eligibility for licensure to individuals with undocumented immigration status who meet all other requirements.
Bill sponsors issued the following statements:
Assemblyman Raj Mukherji (D-Hudson), chair of the Assembly Judiciary Committee: “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. They are risking their and their families’ lives everyday as frontline healthcare workers and in other essential jobs during the pandemic. By eliminating barriers to occupational licenses, we will enable qualified, trained, highly skilled, and hardworking Dreamers to fill critical worker shortages in our state while contributing to the economy and being treated with dignity.
“New Jersey, whose waters are home to Ellis Island, is celebrated for its diversity and thriving immigrant population. 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.”
Assemblywoman Yvonne Lopez (D-Middlesex): “Removing immigration status as a prerequisite for licensure is incredibly important for New Jersey today and to create a path for the generations to follow. Countless individuals have put in the hours, receiving the necessary education and training for their chosen profession, but despite standing ready to work they still aren’t allowed to. As a state we have the power to change that.”
Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D-Bergen, Passaic): “The COVID-19 pandemic has placed incredible demands on our essential employees and healthcare workers. This legislation will allow us to address labor shortages in these vital areas by removing barriers for our highly qualified undocumented students and graduates to become licensed. Our immigrant community has been indispensable throughout this crisis, by lifting this obstacle we can utilize the abilities of every single resident. We are one State, sharing one struggle and one future, together we will ensure that New Jersey always meets the needs of our residents.”
As required by federal law, states must affirmatively opt out of federal restrictions that bar undocumented immigrants from obtaining professional and occupational licensure.
The bill passed the Senate 26-11 on June 29. It now goes to the Governor’s desk.