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Colorado Senate passes bill allowing undocumented immigrants to earn professional licenses

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Posted at 12:14 PM, Apr 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-22 21:21:23-04

DENVER – A bill that would allow undocumented immigrants to earn professional licenses is moving through the state legislature.

“We heard for years that hardworking immigrants who want to obtain these professional licenses to become plumbers, electricians, nurses, or teachers wanted to contribute and found themselves unable to do so,” said one of the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Julie Gonzales, D-Denver.

Gonzales told Denver7, SB21-077 would remove “lawful presence” verification requirements for certain professional licenses and certifications opening the door for undocumented immigrants to enter the skilled workforce.

“Folks who are quite frankly on the front lines doing essential jobs and yet too often folks who are not yet citizens, find themselves unable to access these professional licenses,” said Sen. Gonzales.

As the state grapples with a teacher and nurse shortage, the bill passed in the state senate with bipartisan support.

“That’s because were still requiring that folks have to demonstrate that they’re qualified to receive an occupational license,” said Gonzales.

One person who could benefit from the bill’s passage is Metropolitan State University Student Karen Nunez Sifuenttes.

“My ultimate goal is to become a university professor,” said Nunez Sifuentes.

For nearly four years, Nunez Sifuentes has worked to earn her degree in biochemistry.

But even when that degree is finally in her hands, legally, she cannot become a teacher in the State of Colorado because she is undocumented.

“Even though I am just as qualified as my other friends and colleagues, I'm still not able to do anything,” said Nunez Sifuentes. “I’m not able to be a tutor, not able to be a supplemental instructor, not able to work on campus.”

But Nunez Sifuentes told Denver7, as the bill moves through the state legislature she’s hopeful that she will soon be able to get her teaching license and help other undocumented students do the same.

Next, the bill heads to the state House of Representatives where its expected to receive bipartisan support.

Gonzales said states like Indiana, Nebraska, Nevada, and New Jersey have passed similar laws.