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Advocates and Legal Experts Discuss NYS Board of Regents Proposal to Remove Obstacles to Licenses for Non-Citizens; Express Support for Decision


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Press Contact: Thanu Yakupitiyage; New York Immigration Coalition,  Main Phone: 212-627-2227 x235,  Cell Phone: 413-687-5160,  E-mail: tyaku@thenyic.org
New York  (Tuesday, March 8, 2016)

Advocates and Legal Experts Discuss NYS Board of Regents Proposal to Remove Obstacles to Licenses for Non-Citizens; Express Support for Decision

 (New York, NY) At a media briefing today, advocates from CUNY Law, its Center on Latino/a Rights and Equality (CLORE), LatinoJusticePRLDEF, and the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC) discussed the New York State Board of Regents proposal to allow certain individuals who came to the United States as children and other lawfully present non-citizens to apply for professional licenses and teacher certifications from the State Education Department. The advocates expressed their unequivocal support for the decision, stating that the removal of these restrictions will only boost New York’s economy and provide a much-needed workforce in critical professions.

The Board of Regents has authority over licenses for 57 professions in New York State including engineering, nursing, medicine, social work, and more. The Board’s vote paves the way for qualified applicants under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), temporary protected status (TPS), and similar immigration categories to get the professional licenses for which they have been educated.

Addressing recent criticisms of this move by the Regents, Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition said, “This development opens up opportunities for non-­citizens who have spent years of training and enormous financial investments to become doctors, engineers, lawyers, architects, and teachers, among other professions. Furthermore, this decision closes the loop of opportunity for DACA-recipients and other qualified non-citizens who deserve to contribute to their home state and prosper in their careers. Our State is in great need of these very individuals to practice these critical professions in our workforce. We wholly support the Regents who are acknowledging that these barriers are inefficient and only limiting the state of New York from reaching its full economic potential.”

[Photo Left] Jackie Vimo, director of regional advocacy, New York Immigration Coalition (moderator). [Photo Right] Jose Perez, deputy general counsel at LatinoJusticePRLDEF.

Noting the legality of the move, CUNY School Law Professor Janet Calvo said, “New York State law authorizes, and the state and federal constitutions mandate, eligibility for professional licenses for non-citizens with federal permission to be in this country. This includes DACA students (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival) now attending New York-based universities. The Board of Regents' proposal will enable them to use their educations to contribute to the betterment of New York State.”

“The Board of Regents is to be commended for removing obstacles to professional licensing for qualified non-citizens who meet all license requirements,” said Natalie Gomez-Velez, CUNY Law professor and director of the law school’s Center on Latino/Latina Rights and Equality. Gomez-Velez, a former Regent, added that “the Board's action is consistent with existing law and education policy and is in line with the NYS Department of State's treatment of licensing; it makes educational, economic, and humanitarian sense.”

Left to Right: Jackie Vimo, director of regional advocacy at NYIC; Jose Perez, deputy counsel at LatinoJustice PRLDEF; CUNY Law Professor Janet Calvo; and Natalie Gomez-Velez, director of CUNY Law's Center for Latino/Latina Rights and Equality 

The Board of Regents acknowledges that hundreds of thousands of non-citizen students, including DACA students, are educated in New York State public schools and receive New York high school diplomas. It clarified that under recent court decisions, a federal statute no longer restricts the Board from approving such licensures in New York State. Their decision was based, in part, on a recent court decision holding that Cesar Vargas, a CUNY Law graduate and DACA recipient, was eligible for a law license under New York State law. The Vargas decision was supported by an amicus brief submitted by the New York State Attorney General.

Jose Perez, deputy general counsel at LatinoJusticePRLDEF, who represented Mr. Vargas in attaining his law license and is part of the coalition who advocated to the Board, said: “This is an important development for equality, justice, and sound state policy toward non-citizens who seek to work and contribute to the support of their families and the success of New York State.

Annie Wang, staff attorney at the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), praised the Board's action, noting that “it demonstrates the Board of Regents' commitment to inclusion. This is a sound and sensible policy affecting immigrants and their families in the pursuit of higher education and professional licensing in New York."

[Photo Left] Law Professor Janet Calvo, CUNY School of Law. [Photo Right] Natalie Gomez-Velez, CUNY Law professor and director of the law school’s Center on Latino/Latina Rights and Equality (former Regent)

Expressing his support, Assemblyman Marcos A. Crespo, Chair of the Assembly Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force, said, “There are moments in our State history showcase our being a national leader on issues of social justice. The decision by the New York State Board of Regents to grant licensure in various professions to individuals who came to the United States as children and who are qualified under the Obama Administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals is an example of government performing at its best.  The inability of Congress to implement comprehensive immigration reform has forced states to take individual actions on a wide range of such issues. The proposed regulations by the Board is a positive move to help the more than 53,000 New Yorkers who have registered for DACA, the 200,000 more which live in fear and have not signed and live in our State, and for the 787,000 DACA enrollees nationwide who will now see that New York is the land of opportunity where they can bring their talents to help improve their lives.”

The NYS Board of Regents Proposal can be found here.

The list of 57 professions overseen by the Board of Regents is here.

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The New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC) is an umbrella policy and advocacy organization for nearly 200 groups in New York State that work with immigrants and refugees. The NYIC aims to achieve a fairer and more just society that values the contributions of immigrants and extends opportunity to all by promoting immigrants’ full civic participation, fostering their leadership, and providing a unified voice and a vehicle for collective action for New York’s diverse immigrant communities.

LatinoJustice PRLDEF champions an equitable society. Using the power of the law together with advocacy and education, LatinoJustice PRLDEF protects opportunities for all Latinos to succeed in school and work, fulfill their dreams, and sustain their families and communities.

CUNY School of Law was founded in 1983 and is the premier public interest law school in the nation. The school trains lawyers to serve the underprivileged and to make a difference in their community. A greater percentage of CUNY Law graduates choose careers in public interest and public service than any other law school in the nation. CUNY Law is ranked among the top 10 in the nation for its clinical programs and is one of the only law schools in the country to prepare students for practice through integrated instruction in theory, skills, and ethnics. 


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