Over the last few years, a new issue has arisen with regards to those undocumented immigrants known as DREAMers and how they earn a living. The problem has to do with the fact that although these immigrants are permitted to attend colleges and universities (even given scholarships in some cases), they are later prohibited from obtaining licenses in their fields of study.
A recent article published on the Los Angeles Times website highlights this dilemma quite well. The article talks about a young woman named Denisse Rojas who is planning on attending medical school after graduating from UC Berkeley and eventually practice medicine. However, there is something stopping her from achieving this goal.
In order for Rojas to be able to practice medicine in the state of California, she must be licensed. Part of the licensing process requires the applicant to offer a Social Security number as proof of his or her identity. Rojas came to this country from Mexico as an undocumented immigrant when she was just 6 months old and does not have a Social Security card.
Currently, Rojas is unable to get licensed because of her immigration status, something she had no control over. However, this could change if a new bill gets passed in her state. This bill was introduced by Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) and would effectively “ease the licensing process for psychologists and pharmacists, in addition to other healthcare professionals, and for about two dozen other occupations including real estate agents and security guards.”
If the bill is passed, Rojas believes it will help to remove any obstacles these individuals face when trying to obtain professional licenses. Specifically, the bill would allow for state boards to “accept a federal taxpayer identification number as proof as identification in lieu of a Social Security number.”
The state of California is no stranger to coming up with new ways to help integrate undocumented immigrants into “mainstream society.” In general, this means allowing those individuals to obtain driver's licenses, college scholarships, and protection from removal proceedings for minor crimes.
However, there are some individuals who argue that this bill should not be passed. Unfortunately, they don't fully comprehend how the bill would not only benefit individual immigrants, but society as a whole. Those who support this bill say that this piece of legislation would allow for undocumented immigrants to “work and would afford them upward mobility.” According to current estimates gathered by the Public Policy Institute of California, there are approximately 1.85 million undocumented immigrants in the state's workforce.
Rojas double majored and received degrees in both integrative biology and sociology. She hopes that politicians will work with her and the other 250 members of a group known as Pre-Health Dreamers in order to permit them to work in the healthcare industry. "I am going to continue pursuing my dreams," said Rojas, whose family currently lives in Canada. "If it comes to a point where I can't practice medicine in the United States … I will practice outside of the country if I have to."
Is there more California can do? Should more states follow California's lead and look towards similar legislation?