An undocumented immigrant can attend a California public university paying in-state tuition, and even receive financial assistance under the state’s Dream Act, but he or she can’t practice in the profession in which they’re trained.
Unless the person in question happens to be a lawyer, thanks to a law passed last year and upheld in January by the California Supreme Court.
So it may not come as a surprise that State Sen. Ricardo Lara, a Democrat, has authored a bill that would allow people without Social Security Numbers to get licensed as dentists, psychologists, nurses, pharmacists, real estate agents, barbers, security guards and 30-some other professions.
“We believe that by removing the barrier that we face in obtaining professional licensing, we will be able to reach our full potential,” said aspiring doctor Denisse Rojas at a recent legislative hearing. Rojas, Los Angeles Times reports, was brought into the United States illegally at 6 months of age, studied biology at Berkeley and now wants to apply to medical school.
On Thursday, the bill passed the Senate. Now it heads to the State Assembly.
“It’s insane,” William Gheen, the president of the Americans for Legal Immigration PAC, told the Times. “By granting licenses to illegal immigrants you both aid and abet illegal immigration, which is a violation of federal law, and you are sending a message to the rest of planet Earth that says, ‘Come on!’”
Sen. Lara’s parents were undocumented at one point, and, he argues, the measure would make it so that “more Californians have an effective means of economic mobility and self-sufficiency.”
The bill has divided the California legislature along party lines, with Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed.
Ira Mehlman, a spokesperson for the conservative Federation of American Immigration Reform, told the Times, “California is doing everything in its power to blur any distinction between those who are legally present and those who are not.”