NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — A proposed new law could allow thousands of DACA recipients and those with temporary protected status in Tennessee to obtain professional licensure in a specialty or trade.
“It didn’t happen over the course of a day, it was a lot of people a lot of youth,” said Zacnite Vargas, an immigrant, nurse and activist.
It’s a sign of good news for certain immigrants as HB 2309 would allow immigrants in the United States legally to be able to join and climb up in Tennessee’s economy.
“These are people that grew up in Tennessee, that went to our schools, that have a social security card, they’re legally, lawfully, within the United States,” said Rep. Bob Freeman, a Nashville Democrat.
Roughly 7000 DACA and 3,000 TPS holders would be eligible to get commercial or professional licenses.
“This truly is going to help people on all levels, it’s going to allow someone who is beginning their career and or deep in a career wait tables, it can help nurses, it can help people get their medical degree, lawyers, contractors you name it,” Freeman said.
It’s a bi-partisan bill some have fought for, for years.
“We pay our taxes, we go to school, we’re law-abiding and we just want to have the same opportunities as everyone else and I think that we deserve to be recognized,” Zacnite Vargas said.
Supporters of the workforce expansion bill say it could help address some of the ongoing labor shortages in the state.
“I mean there are 55,000 open jobs currently within the hospitality industry in Middle Tennessee back from the peak pre-COVID, and these jobs need to be filled,” Freeman said.
Lawmakers are stripping licensure from being a “public benefit” and allowing those in the U.S. legally to get the certifications.
The Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition calls the bill, “a victory for all Tennesseans for our state’s economic and workforce recovery efforts and for immigrants who love to call Tennessee home.”