-- Young immigrants commonly referred to as “Dreamers” will be shut out of
jobs in Indiana unless emergency legislation is approved to override a new
practice adopted by Gov. Eric Holcomb’s professional licensing agency.
The term “Dreamers”
refers to young immigrants, typically brought to the U.S. illegally as
children, who have had protection from deportation under a program developed
under former President Barack Obama known as Deferred Action for Childhood
Arrivals, or DACA.
Indiana has more
than 9,000 participants in the program. They are legally allowed to work and
go to school. But under a recently adopted policy by the Indiana
Professional Licensing Agency, they can no longer obtain or renew a
boxed-out these young people and this is an opportunity to fix that,” said
Rep. Ed Clere, a Republican from New Albany who was first notified of the
issue several weeks ago by a young woman in his district who was finishing
cosmetology school but couldn’t get a professional license due to her DACA
He helped draft an
override measure, which a House committee added to an existing bill that was
approved unanimously on Tuesday by the House Government and Regulatory
Reform committee, but it would still need the backing of the full House and
Clere said the
agency’s decision sends a “terrible” message.
devastating for individuals and harmful to employers who could lose a
cosmetologist, or a plumber, or an engineer, or a nurse -- to name a few,”
Professional Licensing Agency did not respond to requests for comment. In a
statement, Holcomb said the agency followed the law, but he didn’t address
why the agency abruptly changed its practice years after DACA took effect.
"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,” The Republican said in a statement. “I am encouraged to see there
is legislative intent to fix this.”
principal at the Prosser Career Education Center in New Albany, said she’s
had a handful of students who haven’t been able to get a license as a result
of the change.
“From an educator’s
perspective, any time there is a block keeping kids from getting what they
need, it’s just disheartening,” she said.
At issue is the
agency’s interpretation of a 2011 Republican-backed state law that predates
the DACA program, which started the following year. The agency only recently
adopted new licensing forms to comply with the 2011 law requiring applicants
to certify that they are either a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident. DACA
recipients don’t fit into either category.
It’s hard to tell
how many people have been affected since the new forms were adopted several
months ago. Clere said anecdotal accounts suggest people across the state
have been unable to obtain licenses.
uncertain is how much longer the DACA program will be around. President
Donald Trump decided last year to phase out the program for hundreds of
thousands of immigrants, calling on Congress to pass a law to address the
plight of “Dreamers.”
“This is fixing a
very specific problem here in Indiana,” said Clere. “Congress needs to act