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California gives undocumented immigrants a chance to practice their professions

SACRAMENTO, Calif. » In Mexico, Marco Nava was a trained cosmetologist working in a salon. He specialized in hair styling and coloring. But for eight of the nine years since he came to the United States illegally he toiled in the shadows, working as a field hand harvesting grapes.

Now, Nava is in an air-conditioned barbershop doing what he loves, thanks to a year-old California law that allows immigrants in the U.S. illegally to apply for state licenses as barbers, cosmetologists, auto mechanics, security guards and other professions.

The law also covers professionals including doctors, nurses, psychologists and pharmacists.

“It was a way for me to come out of hiding,” said Nava, 32. “I no longer have to wake up at 4 in the morning to go do something that is not my profession. Now I can take care of my kids, take them to school and go do something that I love doing.”

More than 300 people have applied for professional licenses from the state under a special process outlined in the new law, which was written by Democratic state Sen. Ricardo Lara, whose parents were in the U.S. illegally before they became citizens.

“Where someone was born does not dictate their potential to contribute to our workforce and grow our economy,” Lara said. “We have the largest immigrant population in the country and we are the eighth-largest economy in the world. In California, we know that integration works.”

California has led the nation in adopting laws aimed at easing the assimilation of those in the U.S. illegally, previously allowing such people to get driver’s licenses, college financial aid and law licenses.

Advocates for strict immigration enforcement, including William Gheen, said the state cannot adopt measures that conflict with federal laws that make it illegal to hire someone who is not in the country legally — or even help them get a job.

“California lawmakers should be focused on helping the American citizens they have sworn to serve instead of illegal invaders that take U.S. jobs and taxpayer resources and corrupt our elections,” said Gheen, president of Americans for Legal Immigration Political Action Committee.

California’s workforce includes 1.85 million people in the U.S. illegally, according to an estimate by the Public Policy Institute of California.

Until Gov. Jerry Brown signed the law, professionals in California had to obtain licenses by submitting their Social Security numbers as proof of citizenship.

The law allows the state’s 40 licensing boards to accept a federal taxpayer identification number, which those working in the country illegally can obtain in lieu of a Social Security number.

The most sought-after licenses so far are for barbering and cosmetology, which had 151 applicants. Second was cemetery operator licenses, which saw 36 applicants, followed by security guard licenses, which drew 32 applications.

There were 24 applicants for automobile repair licenses, 15 for registered nurses, 14 for vocational nurses and seven for dental hygienists. Five people applied for dental licenses. No one has yet sought a license to work as a physician.

Lara said many of the professionals getting state licenses were already doing the work in California, but without state permits and the training required to make sure they do their jobs in ways that do not jeopardize public health.

“By improving access to professional licenses we will increase tax revenues, utilize an untapped worker population and promote stronger communities,” Lara said.

To obtain a professional license, workers must undergo training and pass a test showing that they know how to operate safely with proper hygiene and sanitation so the public is protected, said Julie Landeros, an administrator at the state-licensed Cosmetica Cosmetology and Barbering Apprenticeship Program in Downey.

“It’s amazing,” she said of the new law, “because before there were a lot of undocumented people doing this work already. Now these people can be regulated.”

The training program’s students include Nancy Gonzalez, 35, of San Fernando, who said she was grateful for the ability to get a state license even though she is in the U.S. illegally.

Gonzalez and Nava said it also helps their businesses to be able to show clients a state license.

“I feel free,” Gonzalez said in Spanish, with Landeros translating. “I am happy because I can now help my family, my husband in a much better way without fear that an inspector can come in at any time and give me a $1,000 fine for working without a license.”


©2016 Los Angeles Times

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  • Every time I have to read that despicable wording “undocumented” immigrants I get mad like hell. They are Illegals! Out with them if laws still mean anything!

    • Giving immigrants a path to being a productive taxpaying person is sure better than paying people who want free handouts in the form of welfare and have no desire to work for it. We have better of US Citizens doing just that.

      • There is already a path for citizenship in this Country. Many of my friends have spent time and money to do it the legal way. What makes these criminals better than people who weren’t even citizens, and yet followed our rules to gain citizenship?

      • No it’s not, FACT is they are a net deficit, NOT surplus after you factor in ALL benefits they receive vs the very little they contribute in taxes which might be almost nothing after child credits and deductions.

        The rest of us have to subsidize for the illegals and it’s complete insult to the hard working Citizens and LEGAL immigrants. All the factual data is in public domain and easily accessible with a simple web search.

        They need to be deported, no exceptions. There is absolutely NO EXCUSE to allow illegals to stay in the country and this holds true for any civilized country.

        Why don’t you go to Mexico and try to stay there for longer than your VISA allows and try to get a job. You’ll soon realize those loving people in Mexico would skin you alive if they ever saw a non-Mexican trying to take advantage of their country.

      • The subject of this story, easing licensing restrictions to permit illegals to practice the professions they are qualified for, has nothing to do with jobs “US citizens are too lazy to do.” It’s actually about solid, more-or-less middle-class jobs, not things like day laborer or field hand. As such, it is possible some native-born or naturalized US citizens could be negatively affected.

  • This is why they come and will keep coming, legal or not – drivers license, college financial aid, medical care, welfare, food stamps, now professional licenses as well. Just completely unbelievable that the federal government allows this to happen, Obama is worst president in modern history.

    • Hopefully, if Trump wins, he’ll yank federal funding from these sanctuary cities and states. Hopefully, he’ll also throw employers who hire illegals into jail.

      And change our immigration laws to the exact same laws as Mexico’s.

    • Agreed, absolutely insulting to all Citizens and legal immigrants.

      Literally 50% of my income goes various taxes from federal, state, property and retirement and just imaging how much of that goes into subsidies to help these criminals rather than to hard working citizens that truly need the help.

      Nothing gets me more upset than seeing illegals going into Emergency Rooms and walking out without paying a single dime. Also, seeing 80% of public school classrooms filled with illegal and anchor-baby kids from illegals in many major cities on the mainland, especially in California.

      They’ve already started waving their Mexican flags all over TV in protests to show us that they, the LaRaza movement (The Mexican equivalent to the KKK), own the USA and will never assimilate or follow any laws. For those ignorant fools that support illegals, they have no clue how nasty and racist Mexican people are to even their own, hence the very reason they had to flee from their own loving Mexican people.

  • You mean illegal aliens, who are taking American’s jobs.

    This makes the security guard license worthless, as they are letting criminals get them. Some security.

  • Did you read the SA story on living restrictions on ex-cons convicted of offenses against children. Local laws eliminate as much as 97% of places where they can live. This is after they have served their sentences.

    Yet, many of you think IILEGAL aliens should be given benefits the government doesn’t even provide to Americans. I am not against LEGAL immigrants. My great grandparents and grandparents were legal immigrants. Do I think Donald Trump can really get rid of 11 million illegals. No, I don’t think he can. But, I sure would like to see him try, The Black Emperor of the United States won’t even try. He doesn’t enforce the laws of the U.S. unless he agrees with them. Hell, he won’t appoint a white male American to a Cabinet level post, unless he is a LGBT.

    • The Washington Examiner has an article today that points out the illegal families average about $5692 in benefits (like welfare and SNAP) per month.

      That’s $1261 MORE than AMERICAN CITIZENS who get those benefits.

      • That’s also more the the median GROSS income of most locals in Hawaii! Again, those supporting the illegals and making claims they do the work others won’t and also claiming they pay taxes are either Mexicans themselves or complete idiots unaware of the underling benefits illegals get that even citizens can’t get!

  • While I can sympathize with the illegal aliens they do present a threat to the legals and citizens by taking their jobs away. Kind of a catch 22.
    Obama Clinton should never have allowed it. What’s done is done. The stark reality is there is nothing much we can do about it now except Vote for Trump.

    • Yes, they can do something about it. It’s called deportation and it needs to be enforced! They can start by allowing COPS verify legal status of anyone they stop and by criminalizing any employer hiring illegals just like they did in Texas.

      Even if they’re spent years here illegally, they need to tell them sorry but your free ride is over, take the free education you got out of us and put it to good use in your home country and apply for legal entry and legal stay in the USA if you chose to return in the future.

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