Proposal Would Open Job Licenses For Undocumented Immigrants

By John Whittaker


A year after a raucous political fight over granting driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants, legislation has been introduced in the state Assembly to extend job-related licenses to undocumented immigrants.

A.10633, sponsored by Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz, D-Corona, would enact the Empire State Licensing Act to provide all New Yorkers with access to professional, occupational, commercial, or business licenses, permits, certificates or related registrations regardless of an applicant’s citizenship or immigration status. The bill has been referred to the Governmental Operations Committee.

“The number of jobs requiring licenses has increased dramatically over the past 60 years.,” Cruz wrote in her legislative justification. “Currently, over 1,100 different occupations require a license and approximately 25 percent of all workers nationwide are required to obtain a license in order to work in their occupations. Examples of impacted New Yorkers include attorneys, nurses, massage therapists, landscape architects, barbers, real estate brokers, food salvagers, and teachers. Talented and otherwise qualified applicants are currently precluded from acquiring certain professional licenses, permits, certifications, and registrations in the State of New York due to lack of citizenship or immigration status.”

Cruz’ proposal would amend a slew of state laws, including the Civil Rights Law, Public Officers Law, Tax Law, General Obligations Law, Education Law, Alcoholic Beverage Control Law, General City Law, General Business Law, Labor Law and Judiciary Law.

A new section would be added to the Civil Rights Law to state that no applicant be denied a professional, occupational, commercial or business license, permit, certificate or any other substantially similar permission, or related registration on account of their citizenship or immigration status.

The proposal also amends the state Freedom of Information Law to prevent citizenship or immigration status from FOIL requests as an u nwarranted invasion of personal privacy. There are several guidelines in the law that protect documents typically provided for such licenses, including keeping originals or copies of documents only as long as needed to review the application, keeping documents confidentially and not subject to disclosure unless consent is given or to satisfy a judicial order or subpoena.

Cruz wrote that New York is home to about 4.5 million immigrants, more than 700,000 of whom are undocumented and 20,000 of whom are recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Many of those undocumented immigrants, Cruz wrote, can’t get jobs because their immigration status doesn’t allow them to obtain professional certification.

“This act addresses the compelling need to remove the citizenship and immigration status requirements for the acquisition of professional, occupational, commercial, and business licenses, for noncitizen applicants, as they do not comport with prevailing principles underlying jurisprudence of equity and fairness, and undermine New York’s efforts to promote economic growth and support immigrant communities,” Cruz wrote. “Our state recognizes the value of providing every New Yorker with the opportunity to apply for and acquire licenses, permits, certifications, and registrations they are otherwise qualified for.”


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