California plans to provide professional licenses to undocumented

Immigrants in the country illegally can apply for professional licenses under a new California law that aims to integrate them into the working world and generate new tax dollars for the state. California Governor Jerry Brown signed three immigration bills on September 27 that will, respectively, provide funding for state public universities to administer loans to students who are in the United States illegally, allow undocumented to apply for professional state licenses, and allocate $3 million for non-profit organizations to legally represent minors in deportation cases.

Of the bills, the one that has received the most attention is SB 1210, introduced by Democratic state Senator Ricardo Lara last April. According to a statement from Lara, SB 1210 creates the California Dream Loan Program, which would establish at the University of California and California State University a loan program for “undocumented” students who have financial need but lack access to federal or private student loans.

“We invest in California students from an early age and many of them have done what we’ve asked them to do: work hard, study and pursue a higher education,” said Lara. “If we’re serious about strengthening our economy then we must remove obstacles for our future workforce when they’re close to the graduation finish line. Continuing to invest in our future and ensuring that all students have access to the funding resources they need to succeed should be a top priority.”

The new law SB 1159 requires all 40 licensing boards under the California Department of Consumer Affairs to consider applicants regardless of immigration status by 2016. But the Federation of American Immigration Reform, which calls for limited immigration, said that California is breaking federal law.

Conservative immigration activists have criticized California for allowing immigrants without legal status to apply for driver's licenses, or seek in state college tuition. The new bill directs licensing boards to also accept federal taxpayer identification numbers issued by the IRS. Starting in 2012, some immigrants who came to the country illegally have been able to get social security numbers through a program for young adults called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, professional licensing will be an option with or without DACA.

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