Advocates Applaud Signing of Professional Licensing Bill for Immigrants

Law signed by Governor Jerry Brown eliminates licensing barriers for talented immigrant professionals

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SACRAMENTO – Today Educators for Fair Consideration (E4FC), Pre-Health Dreamers (PHD), the American Civil Liberties Union of California (ACLU of California), Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), California Immigrant Policy Center (CIPC), and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) commend Governor Brown for signing Senate Bill 1159, a bill that improves access to economic opportunities to immigrants in California. The bill, by Senator Ricardo Lara (D), allows qualified individuals to obtain professional licenses, regardless of immigration status. Thus California continues to lead the way in fully incorporating immigrants as contributing members of society.

“Allowing qualified, highly-skilled immigrant workers to obtain professional licenses strengthens California's workforce and economy," said Senator Ricardo Lara. "This bill is consistent with our state's commitment to recognizing the invaluable contributions of our immigrant population and will provide economic mobility and self-sufficiency to the 1.85 million immigrants who call California home.”

Currently, many talented and trained Californians are barred from practicing in their profession and participating in the economy because the application for licensure requires the submission of a Social Security Number. Luz Sandoval, a UC Merced student and E4FC member, is one young person hindered by current licensing rules despite having been raised in California and educated in the state’s public school system.

With the passage of SB 1159, Luz will now be able to realize her dream of becoming a self-employed certified accountant and become “a successful Latina businesswoman who contributes back to her community by raising funds to help other students access higher education.”

SB 1159 allows immigrants in California to increase their earning potential and improve their economic self-sufficiency. “By being able to have a professional license we will be able to charge a living wage for our skilled labor,” stated a day laborer from Los Angeles, who asked to remain anonymous due to his immigration status. SB 1159 will also help California meet the demand for professions that currently experience a shortage of skilled workers, including nursing, accounting and landscaping.  

Moreover, enabling more Californians to work as licensed professionals will increase immigrants’ already substantial contributions to the state’s economy. California is currently home to more than 10 million immigrants, 1.85 million of whom are undocumented workers in our labor force. These workers contributed an estimated $2.7 billion in state taxes in 2010. “By expanding professional licenses to all regardless of immigration status, California recognizes immigrant contributions and continues to lead the way on immigrant integration efforts,” stated Jazmin Segura, from Educators for Fair Consideration.   

California licensing boards must implement SB 1159 no later than January 1, 2016 by allowing an applicant to submit an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number in lieu of a Social Security Number. Boards that are prepared may implement sooner and organizations named above encourage them to do so. Other beneficiaries include the members of Pre-Health Dreamers who are studying to become doctors, nurses and other health professionals, as well as individuals who are already working in their field and only lack the professional license such as landscapers and other contractors.

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