California lawmakers are considering a bill (SB 1159) that would allow undocumented immigrants to practice the occupation they have been trained for, including those trained as dentists, doctors and nurses, the Los Angeles Times reports.
According to an estimate by the Public Policy Institute of California, about 1.85 million individuals in the state workforce are undocumented immigrants.
To obtain a medical license in California, applicants must provide a valid Social Security number.
Under the legislation, about 40 occupational licensing boards across the state would be able to accept a federal taxpayer identification number as proof of identification instead of a Social Security number.
Support for the Measure
Supporters of the bill say it expands on other recently enacted measures that provide undocumented immigrants in the state with certain privileges, including:
- College scholarships;
- Driver's licenses; and
- Protection from deportation.
Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), the bill's sponsor, said it would ensure "more Californians have an effective means of economic mobility and self-sufficiency."
Details of Opposition
Opponents of the bill say the state should enact stricter requirements on undocumented immigrants to deter people from entering the country without documentation.
William Gheen, president of the Americans for Legal Immigration Political Action Committee, said, "By granting licenses to illegal immigrants you both aid and abet illegal immigration, which is a violation of federal law." Gheen added that the bill also could promote undocumented immigrants entering the country.
Ira Mehlman, a spokesperson for the Federation of American Immigration Reform, said, "California is doing everything in its power to blur any distinction between those who are legally present and those who are not" (McGreevy, Los Angeles Times, 5/11).