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California considers healthcare licensing for illegal immigrants


By Rachel Landen
Posted: May 14, 2014 - 5:30 pm ET
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Illegal immigrants would be able to obtain a license to practice medicine from the state of California under a bill passed in the state Senate in early May.

The bill, introduced by Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Huntington Park/Long Beach), would allow state boards to accept a federal taxpayer identification number in place of a Social Security number as part of a professional license application. Among other occupations, the relaxed rules would apply to healthcare professionals, including psychologists and pharmacists. The state assembly is likely to take up the measure in coming weeks.

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“Over the last decade our state has understood the importance of a continued investment in immigrant children,” Lara said in analysis presented to the state's Senate Rules Committee. “The natural step is to ensure that as these young people complete their education, a professional license is accessible to them in their respective fields.”

But opening up professional licensing to this segment has created controversy. Though the bill passed the state Senate May 8 with support from 32 lawmakers, including seven Republicans, eight senators—five Republicans and three Democrats—abstained from the vote. And outside of the state's legislature, conservative activists have raised a battle cry against the bill.

“It's insane,” William Gheen, president of Americans for Legal Immigration Political Action Committee, said in a release. “By granting licenses to illegal immigrants, you both aid and abet illegal immigration, which is a violation of federal law, and you are sending a message to the rest of planet Earth that says, 'Come on!'”

However, this is not the first time that California has led attempts to assimilate illegal immigrants, or grant them permission to practice their professions. Last October, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed into state law legislation that allows illegal immigrants to practice law and be admitted to the State Bar of California.

Approximately one in 10 of the state's workers—1.85 million people—is an undocumented immigrant, according to the Public Policy Institute of California.

Follow Rachel Landen on Twitter: @MHrlanden


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