Bill letting ‘Dreamers’ get licenses clears Indiana House

March 6, 2018

Young immigrants often referred to as “Dreamers” would no longer be prohibited from obtaining professional licenses under emergency legislation approved Monday by the Indiana House. But while the measure is supported by Gov. Eric Holcomb, there are hints it could face opposition in the Senate.

“I know the governor supports it, (but) I’m confident not everyone does,” said Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma, who voted for the bill.

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.

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 professional license for dozens of professions ranging from cosmetology to nursing to real estate agents.

The DACA protections passed by the House on Monday are included in a broader bill addressing professional licensing issues. But while it was approved on an 88-8 vote, a number of parliamentary maneuvers made by Senate Republicans on Monday suggest it could be on tenuous ground as the session enters its final days.

Bills typically fall by the wayside as time winds down, and Democratic Sen. Mark Stoops of Bloomington sought to add the DACA protections into a separate piece of legislation as an insurance policy. He was voted down by the GOP majority.

However, Republicans pulled the same maneuver with other parts of the bill, while leaving out the DACA language.

Despite the unusual moves, Republican Senate leader David Long downplayed the possibility of the bill not ultimately passing.

“I do have pretty high hopes (the DACA protections) will sail through. I don’t see why not,” said Long, of Fort Wayne. He added: “There may be a few people with some concerns.”

The DACA issue unexpectedly erupted last week after Republican New Albany Rep. Ed Clere says he was contacted by a young woman in his district who was unexpectedly denied a license.

That’s because the state’s professional licensing agency recently changed its interpretation of a 2011 state law that predates the DACA program by a year. The agency 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, who sponsored the DACA measure, said anecdotal accounts suggest people across the state have been unable to obtain licenses.

What’s also 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.” Several proposals have been discussed in recent weeks, but little progress has been made.


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