NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — More than 7,000 Dreamers — or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients — call Tennessee home. Many receive a temporary work permit or driver's license but still face restrictions in the workforce.
Nursing, real estate and teaching are just some of the many career fields that require a commercial or professional license. But in Tennessee, DACA recipients were not eligible to obtain those licenses until now.
"As a Latino, it does give me a sense of recognition and a sense of pride because it means that not only myself, but a lot more individuals like me, are going to have a lot more opportunities and they're going to be able to show what they're made of," DACA recipient Juan Oliva said.
The Workforce Expansion Bill, sponsored by Sen. Shane Reeves, R-Murfreesboro, will allow certain immigrants to obtain licensure in their desired specialty or trade. Over 7,000 DACA recipients and 3,000 Temporary Protected Status holders will benefit from this piece of legislation.
"Federally, in order to be able to access licensures in a state, the legislature must affirmatively create legislation to allow that," said Luis Mata, policy coordinator with the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition,
Gov. Bill Lee signed the new legislation into law that allows anyone who is federally authorized to work in the state to be eligible for those special licenses. Mata said Tennessee joins states like Florida, Arkansas and Mississippi that have already passed similar laws.
"We had folks coming to us saying that they were moving out of state to other states that already had this legislation," said Mata. "So we were losing that skilled workforce and that talent that we had here."
The legislation won't impact immigration or citizenship status, but it is a major step for those hoping to get ahead in the workforce.
"People are going to have a lot more opportunities to use the skills they've already earned or the skills they want to develop and they know they have a future in that field," Oliva said.
The bill's bipartisan support gives Oliva hope.
"We're just thinking about the possibility of human potential, and I think that's the most important part," he said.