Lawmakers rush legislation to allow DACA recipients to obtain professional licenses in Indiana

INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana lawmakers are quickly positioning themselves to pass legislation aimed at ensuring DACA recipients can receive professional work licenses in Indiana.

The last-minute legislation comes amid revelations the Indiana Professional Licensing Agency has started denying applications to DACA recipients, who the agency has said are not qualified to hold licenses for dozens of professions including nursing, cosmetology and real estate.

“It has definitely impacted me in the way that I am not able to get a job right now in the field,” a DACA recipient said, who asked to not be identified.

She shared with CBS4 documents she received from the Professional Licensing Agency that said the information she provided through DACA  forms “is not sufficient.”

State officials have said the change is in response and the interpretation of a 2011 state immigration law that passed before the DACA program was created. The law, authored by State Sen. Mike Delph (R-Carmel), requires state agencies to verify that a person is a U.S. citizen or qualified alien to receive state benefits, like licenses.

Through a spokesperson Tuesday afternoon, Delph said he is still studying the topic and amendment.

State Rep. Ed Clere (R-New Albany), who helped author the new amendment, said the state agency revised applications late last year to include a new section asking if applicants if they are either a U.S. citizen or qualified alien. The change was first reported Tuesday morning by The Indianapolis Star.

The House Government and Regulatory Reform committee passed the amendment 9-0 Tuesday, which would allow DACA recipients to obtain professional licenses. It still must be heard in the Senate and pass both chambers before the end of the legislative session.

“I didn’t find out about it until three weeks ago,” State Rep. Ed Clere (R-New Albany) said, who helped author the amendment and is pushing lawmakers to approve quickly. “I hope this can be viewed for what it is, which is a very narrow piece of legislation aimed at fixing a very specific problem. This is not sweeping immigration legislation. That’s what we desperately need from Congress.”

Gov. Eric Holcomb echoed the sentiment in a statement.

“Ultimately, 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. While Indiana’s Professional Licensing Agency acted appropriately and in line with what our current laws require, I am encouraged to see there is legislative intent to fix this.”

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