California Bill Would Ease Professional Licensing Rules for Immigrants

Patrick McGreevy, Los Angeles Times, May 11, 2014

Denisse Rojas earned a biology degree from UC Berkeley and has set her sights on medical school. But one big obstacle stands in her way.

To practice medicine in California, doctors must obtain a license from the state, and applicants are required to provide a Social Security number as proof of identity.

Rojas, 25, does not have such a number. She is in the United States illegally, having been smuggled into the country from Mexico by her parents when she was 6 months old.

But a group of legislators wants to help her–to do for doctors, dentists, nurses, barbers, security guards and many others what they did last year for attorneys: grant those in the country illegally permission to practice their occupations.

The San Francisco resident said she was able to receive financial aid from the state under California’s Dream Act for her last semester of college, so it follows that the state should allow her to use her degree.

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California leads the nation in efforts to integrate immigrants living here illegally into mainstream society, providing them with driver’s licenses, college scholarships and protection from deportation for minor crimes. The new legislation could go much further in affecting the lives of those in the shadows, supporters say, because it targets work and would afford them upward mobility. The state’s workforce includes 1.85 million people in the country illegally, according to an estimate by the Public Policy Institute of California.

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A bill by Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) would 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. The measure passed the state Senate on Thursday.

SB 1159 would allow about 40 state boards to accept a federal taxpayer identification number as proof of identification in lieu of a Social Security number.

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A spokesman for the Republican caucus said there was concern about the cost of such a change.

Tax authorities would “not always be able to correctly identify licensees to ensure proper collection of taxes associated with the licensee’s practice of profession,” said spokesman Peter DeMarco.

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