Bill To Help 'Dreamers' Awaits Senate Approval
Indianapolis—A bill to restore the ability of “Dreamers” to obtain professional licenses in Indiana passed the House on March 5 by a vote of 88-8. The Senate is expected to concur on the bill before the Indiana General Assembly adjourns on March 14. The Indiana Catholic Conference (ICC) supports the proposal.
The Indiana Professional Licensing Agency, the rulemaking body for professional licensing, began making changes to its professional-licensing forms beginning in August 2017 to conform to a 2011 law passed by the Indiana General Assembly that created the problem for “Dreamers.”
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, commonly referred to as, DACA, established a temporary immigration policy that allows some individuals who entered the country as minors to receive a renewable, two-year period of deferred action from deportation. It also provides eligibility for a work permit. DACA recipients are also called “Dreamers.”
Rep. Ed Clere, R-New Albany, said he had been looking for a couple of weeks to find a home for his amendment to fix the professional-licensing problem negatively impacting DACA participants in Indiana, and was pleased to learn that Senate Bill 419 could be used as a vehicle to add the DACA language.
Clere’s amendment restores an avenue to attain professional licensing in Indiana for “Dreamers.” Clere said the problem for “Dreamers’’ stems from a 2011 bill passed by the Indiana General Assembly that predated DACA. Clere said that, for whatever reason, the Indiana Professional Licensing Agency did not deny licenses to DACA participants from the inception of DACA, in 2012, until late last year. In August of 2017, the agency started changing the application forms of all licensed professions and completed that process by Nov. 2017.
“During the that time, from 2012 until late last year, countless DACA participants received professional licenses, and/or many others have completed education and training or are currently enrolled with the expectation of receiving a license; now they are ineligible whether it’s for a new license or a renewal,” said Clere.
Clere said he became aware of the situation when he heard of a young woman who completed a two-year training program to become a cosmetologist but was denied a license when she applied. “Now that she cannot work as a cosmetologist, her work options are limited and not too attractive,” Clere said. “If this problem isn’t fixed, DACA participants who currently hold licenses will not be able to get a renewal; and this is devastating to individuals and harmful to employers who will lose a cosmetologist, a plumber, or an engineer or a nurse to name a few. Indiana has boxed-out these young people; this is an opportunity to fix that.”
In its original form, Senate Bill 419, authored by Sen. Blake Doriot, R-Syracuse, clarifies that Indiana is the licensing authority for various professions rather than local municipalities. Local units of government may require additional permits, but not require additional licensing. While the original bill did not address “Dreamers,” it made a suitable home for Clere’s amendment to fix DACA participants’ inability to get professional licensing.
Gov. Eric Holcomb weighed in on the proposal to restore professional licensing to “Dreamers” on Feb. 27 saying, “Ultimately, Congress needs to clarify federal immigration law regarding DACA. But, until they act, Indiana state law should allow DACA recipients to skill up and work here in Indiana. While Indiana’s Professional Licensing Agency acted appropriately and in line with what our current laws require, I am encouraged to see there is legislative intent to fix this.”
Current Indiana law allows DACA participants to work legally in Indiana but keeps them from working in an area that requires a professional licensing, which Clere says relegates them, in many cases, to low wage jobs.
Glenn Tebbe, executive director of the ICC, testified in support of the amendment to restore licensure. “We want to thank Rep. Clere, who took the initiative to add this important provision to help ‘Dreamers’ gain access to professional licensing or to renew them,” Tebbe said. “We not only think it will be in the best interest of the individuals, but it really will be benefitting all Hoosiers by allowing these people to take care of their families and contribute to the common good.”
In addition to the ICC, several organizations testified in support of the proposal, including the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council; the Indianapolis and the Indiana Chamber of Commerce; and the Indiana Institute for Working Families.
Tebbe said that, since the bill was amended in the House, it will be returned to the Senate for approval. Tebbe said he is hopeful the Senate will concur with the House changes during the final week of the legislative session. If the Senate concurs, the bill will become law. If the Senate fails to approve the DACA-fix bill, “Dreamers” will be stuck without access to professional licenses in Indiana.
To get an update on legislative action on the ICC priority bills go to the ICC Web page at www.indianacc.org .