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(The Center Square) – Calling it “smart and good” for New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy signed a bill that will allow those with undocumented immigration status to obtain professional licenses if they meet all of the requirements.

Murphy held a virtual bill signing on Facebook that includes sponsors and representatives from Make the Road NJ, an immigrant advocacy organization. The bill will apply to the half a million undocumented residents living in New Jersey, the governor said.

Rutgers University student Estrella Rivas introduced Murphy and told of her plans to become a doctor. She came to the United States from El Salvador when she was 5 years old, and without the bill would be unable to pursue that dream.

The bill was not without its critics. According to, it faced opposition from most Republican lawmakers and from some advocacy groups when it passed earlier this summer.

"It's additional competition for jobs, especially at a time like this,'' Federation for American Immigration Reform spokesperson Ira Mehlman told in July. "The law of supply and demand dictates that the more workers you have to do a certain job the lower the price is going to be so it hurts them that way also."

But Murphy said the bill is especially needed now, with the coronavirus pandemic straining medical resources.

“This bill is a good idea no matter what, but God knows the strain and stress on our medical and health professionals make its timing and its urgency even more so,” Murphy said.

The state issued emergency licenses to undocumented immigrants who were able to help during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The bill not only covers licenses for health care professionals but covers other licenses ranging from teacher to cosmetologist.

“If a DACA student – like several who testified before our committee – aspires to be a teacher, nurse, or physician and takes the MCATs, is admitted to and graduates from medical school, and completes a residency, we would be fools to deprive our communities of their hard-earned skills and talents while facing an unprecedented public health crisis,” said Assemblyman Raj Mukherji, D-Hudson, who chairs Assembly Judiciary Committee and is one of the bill’s sponsors.

The bill will also help with a shortage of employees in some key industries, according to Maneesha Kelkar, interim director of New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice.

“Allowing young professionals to pursue their careers in the Garden State will make our economy and communities stronger,” Kelkar said.

Murphy indicated this is not the last immigration-related bill on his agenda.

“Our work is not done,” he said. “This is a big day but it is not the last day.”


published here with permission