In Maryland, undocumented immigrants could see licensing ban lifted
It’s the kind that Ewaoluwa Ogundana told me about one morning recently.
“It’s not that they don’t want to go further in their field,” she says. “There’s literally a legal hurdle stopping them, so they can only stay in low-wage jobs.”
The 22-year-old, who was born in Nigeria and raised in Maryland, wrote a blog post several months ago that identified a labor barrier that has held back many undocumented immigrants and limited ambition at a time when critical areas are experiencing workers. shortages. What has happened since that article was published is something she hoped to see but didn’t expect to see – at least not so soon.
“Would you believe me if I told you that this blog post has been gaining traction among #Maryland lawmakers and now two bills are being introduced this session…” she tweeted February 7.
In her blog post for New America, where she was interning, Ogundana credited Maryland for helping undocumented immigrants get higher education. She noted that the state allows immigrants to pay college and university tuition and gives them the opportunity to attend local community colleges for free. But then, she wrote, it prevents them “from fully benefiting from their graduate degrees.”
“For example,” she wrote, “Maryland prohibits undocumented students from obtaining professional licenses.”
This means that a child who was brought to this country and raised in Maryland could be asked what he wants to be when he grows up, then grow up and realize that he is prohibited from obtaining the licenses necessary to do this work. They cannot become registered nurses, accountants or dental hygienists. They cannot become licensed veterinarians, educators or estheticians.
“Nearly one in four jobs require some kind of license to practice in the United States, and in Maryland, nearly 40% of the population work in jobs that require a professional license,” Ogundana wrote. “It is inconsistent to limit specific licensing of undocumented students if the actual operation of this profession does not require citizenship.”
Maryland isn’t the only state to have the ban in place, but it now has the option to join five other states that have removed it. This week, Maryland’s Senate and House were scheduled to hold hearings on legislation that, if passed, would allow undocumented immigrants to obtain professional and professional licenses. Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D-Montgomery) and Del. Joseline A. Peña-Melnyk (D-Prince George’s) worked together to introduce the bills.
“There is a crisis right now in our labor shortage and we have a possible solution, while helping students who have worked very hard, received a good education and are ready to serve in these approved professions “, said Kagan.
She said many people in favor of the legislation have come forward to share their views and the Maryland Hospital Association has spoken of having nearly 4,000 vacancies.
When I spoke with Peña-Melnyk about the legislation, she checked off the jobs that require licenses. The list grew longer. Among those mentioned: Accountants, architects, consultants, dental hygienists, court reporters, locksmiths, undertakers, midwives, plumbers and therapists.
“It’s just the right thing to do, especially given the shortage of work we have,” she said of the legislation. “It doesn’t matter what your legal status is. What matters is that you are able to do the job and that you are qualified. And we definitely need everyone on deck.
The morning we speak, Ogundana shares with me the story of an aspiring cardiologist she knows. This student was planning to attend an EKG program at Prince George’s Community College in hopes of earning an EKG license and possibly attending medical school. But because she’s undocumented, that license remains out of reach — at least, for now.
“Unless someone is completely anti-immigrant, this bill helps the entire state,” Ogundana said. “This legislation will impact many generations to come… It also helps a community that has faced so many struggles.”
Ogundana graduated valedictorian from her high school in Prince George’s County and says it wasn’t until she started applying to colleges that she realized what it meant to be undocumented in this country. She was 4 years old when her family overstayed a visa and moved to Maryland. Throughout her schooling, she had been encouraged to strive and excel. But then she found herself rejected from colleges that asked for documents she could not provide and accepted colleges that wanted to enroll her as an international student, resulting in high tuition fees.
After qualifying for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an immigration status that offers certain protections to people brought to the United States as children, she received a scholarship through TheDream .US to attend Trinity Washington University. After graduating, she interned for New America and is currently pursuing a master’s degree at the University of Maryland at College Park.
Because she is a DACA recipient, the limitations she is fighting to remove for immigrants do not directly affect her situation. But they could do so if the application she has to file every two years is at any time denied or if the program is eliminated. These limitations also affect his friends, neighbors and family members. Her younger brother, who was 1 when the family left Nigeria, applied for DACA but processing of his documents was suspended under the Trump administration and is now on hold.
“His candidacy has been in the system for five years,” she said. “So he hasn’t been able to reap the same benefits as me.”
When I ask Ogundana what she hopes to do after she gets her master’s degree, she says she didn’t choose a job title, but she chose a path. She wants to occupy a position that will allow her to make political recommendations.
This career choice, fortunately, does not require a license.