NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) – Thousands of immigrants across the state can now obtain professional work licenses for the first time.
The Workforce Expansion Bill was signed into law by Governor Bill Lee in April and took effect yesterday.
Laura Lara, a first-generation college student, said the legislation allowed her to pursue her passion.
“Growing up, I watched my parents struggle with the language barrier and get used to a new culture and a new language. It was hard for my parents and myself, but I think I got used to it. embarked on this career and this path because I want to help those who are coming or those who are here who are unable to communicate,” Lara said.
When she was eight years old, Lara’s family made Nashville their home.
“I know my parents moved here from Mexico, but since then we haven’t really moved anywhere else. So this is my home,” she said.
Lara is a graduate of Glencliff High School and a DACA recipient. Although the federal program protects some undocumented immigrants from deportation and allows them to attend college, in most states they cannot obtain professional licenses.
“I thought about it, maybe moving to another state. But at the same time, like, it’s been tough, it’s been tough because my family is here,” Lara said.
In Tennessee, the new workforce expansion bill is helping people like Lara avoid a similar dilemma.
“My overall goal is to become a licensed clinical social worker, so for me to have this opportunity to get a professional license is my whole career. It’s my whole dream, so it means a lot to me,” said Lara said.
The legislation means those federally licensed to work, such as Tennessee’s 7,000 DACA recipients and 3,000 TPS holders, can be licensed in trades such as nursing, real estate or labor social.