With immigration reform efforts seemingly stalled in Washington D.C., the California legislature is continuing to take its own steps to address the undocumented immigrants who call the state home. FM89’s Diana Aguilera reports on one new bill that would help a variety of undocumented professionals.
In order to practice medicine doctors have to provide a social security number to obtain a license from the state. This process automatically excludes undocumented immigrants from applying.
But a bill that passed the state Senate last week could give unauthorized immigrants that chance.
The bill introduced by Sen. Ricardo Lara would ease the licensing process beyond doctors. It would extend to several professions including nurses, dentists, real estate agents and security guards.
Jessica Smith Bobadilla is the director of the New American Legal Clinic at San Joaquin College of Law.
“I think it’s indicative of a response to the lack of legislation at a federal level granting immigration benefits," she says. "And since there’s been no major law that congress has passed since given immigration benefits to the undocumented since 2001 there’s a lot of people left in limbo including many people that were brought here young and grew up here.”
Under Senate Bill 1159, about 40 state boards would accept a federal taxpayer identification number as proof of identity.
The proposal has sparked an uproar from national conservative groups.
William Gheen is the president of The Americans for Legal Immigration Political Action Committee.
"We thought it was insane and detrimental to American workers and taxpayers," Gheen says.
"We oppose it because it sends the wrong message to the rest of the world and the over 1 billion people that would prefer to live in America if they could get away with it. It says come here, come to California. If you are an illegal immigrant the state of California will aid and abet you in violation of existing federal law."
The bill passed the senate with support from seven Republicans. Five GOP members abstained.
Lara’s proposal reflects a similar measure that was approved last year by the Legislature and signed by Governor Jerry Brown. The measure allows any immigrant to practice law despite their residency status if they are certified by the State Bar.
Supporters of immigration reform are applauding Lara’s initiative.
"I’ve heard of many students even here from the Central Valley that are studying for that and they go through the educational system and then they’re not able to use all of this investment that they made in their education."
Grisanti Valencia is with the California Youth Justice Alliance.
"Most of this students don't even qualify for deferred action so this would definitely help those students in particular to actually get [relief] and have some hope in continuing their dreams.”
Lara’s bill is now in the Assembly.