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New law expands career opportunities for immigrants in Tennessee

New law expands career opportunities for immigrants in Tennessee
licensing bill .jpeg
Posted at 10:07 PM, Jul 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-04 13:45:19-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF)  — Thousands of immigrants across the state can now for the first time obtain professional work licenses.

The Workforce Expansion Bill was signed into law by Gov. Bill Lee back in April and took effect yesterday.

Laura Lara, a first-generation college student, said the legislation means she can pursue her passion.

"Growing up I saw my parents struggle with the language barrier and just getting accustomed to a new culture and a new language. It was difficult for my parents and myself but I think I got into this career and this path because I want to help those who are coming in or those who are here and are unable to communicate," Lara said.

At the age of eight, Lara's family made Nashville their home.

"I know my parents moved from Mexico to here, but ever since then, we haven't really moved anywhere else. So this is home to me," 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 go to college, in most states they are unable to obtain professional licenses.

"I did think about it, maybe moving to another state. But at the same time, like it was hard, it has been hard 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 to me having this opportunity, of obtaining a professional license, it's my whole career. It's my whole dream, so it means a lot to me," Lara said.

The legislation means people federally authorized to work such as the 7,000 DACA recipients and 3,000 TPS holders in Tennessee can obtain licensure in trades such as nursing, real estate, or social work.