Center for Immigration Law Director Prof. Rose Cuison-Villazor will be testifying before the NJ Assembly in support of A4225 and remove immigration status as a barrier to getting professional licenses in NJ
Prepared Remarks in Support of A4225
New Jersey Assembly
July 20, 2020
Vice-Dean, Chancellor’s Social Justice Scholar and Professor of Law
Director, Center for Immigration Law, Policy and JusticeMy name is Rose Cuison-Villazor and I am the Vice-Dean and Professor of Law at Rutgers Law School in Newark and I teach, research and write about immigration law. I am also the founding Director of the Center for Immigration Law, Policy and Justice. The Center for Immigration Law explores and supports the adoption of equitable and more inclusive laws, regulations, policies, and practices for all people, citizens and non-citizens alike. I write to strongly encourage passage of A4225 for at least three reasons. First, passage of A4225 builds on the important work that New Jersey has done to ensure that Dreamers and undocumented students have meaningful opportunity to share their skills and talents and contribute to our state. 1 in every 20 New Jersey resident is undocumented. Many of the 74,000 undocumented college-age youth in New Jersey are seeking undergraduate or graduate degrees. Almost 200 students who attend Rutgers University-Newark. Many of these students have been able to attend and pay for college due to a 2018 law that allowed them to obtain financial aid. In late 2019, the state passed a law that allowed undocumented students and immigrants the ability to apply for a driver’s license. In doing so, the state ensured that members of our community will be able to drive to school, jobs, malls and other places of public accommodation. A4225 is the logical next step, which will enable individuals who grew up here and are Americans and New Jerseyans without papers to obtain occupational licenses and share their skills and talents and contribute economically, socially and culturally to our state. Second, our state needs this bill to pass. As the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, which is co-chaired by Rutgers University Newark Chancellor Nancy Cantor, recommended in their September 2019 report (available here: https://2wslav2505mz1d7rci3uuem8-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/2019-09-Expanding-Eligibility-for-Professional-and-Occupational-Licensing-for-Immigrants.pdf), there is a growing demand for licensure for immigrants. Removing barriers to occupational licenses for qualified individuals can help meet state labor shortage, including in the health care and educational fields. As has been shared with you by other organizations, the New Jersey Department of Labor has identified health care industry as one area where there is a high need of workers. In light of the pandemic, which has demonstrated the critical need to have qualified and adequate medical workers, passage of this bill is paramount. The state also continues to face a teacher shortage, which is a serious problem also because of the impact that the pandemic has had on our educational system. We need more teachers to help close the gap in education that continues to widen. Third, the Supreme Court recently held that the Trump administration’s rescission of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was arbitrary and capricious and thus, restored DACA. However, the Court held that the administration has the power to revoke it as long as it follows proper procedures. That means that DACA may ultimately be rescinded, which would imperil the lives of 16,480 DACA individuals who call New Jersey home. A4225 will provide an important state protective measure for these individuals. In sum, I urge passage of A4225. States have the power to pass laws that promote the health, safety and welfare of the state and its residents. This is what this bill promises to do. If passed, New Jersey will be the first state on the East Coast and the fourth state in the country (following California, Nevada, and New Mexico) to benefit even more and on a statewide basis from the skills and talents of undocumented students and immigrants by allowing those who are qualified to gain access to occupational licenses.