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NY lifts licensing restrictions for some immigrants

Clever Cupcakes, Flickr

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Some immigrants who have entered the country illegally will be allowed to teach and practice  medicine in New York state after its licensing board voted to accept applications from those immigrants brought to the United  States as children.

"They are American in every way but immigration status," state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said after the Board  of Regents made permanent the regulations in Albany on Tuesday. "They've done everything right. They've worked hard in  school, some have even served in the military."

Elia and Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa said the action will open up new opportunities for thousands of people with  Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status. The DACA policy implemented by the Obama administration in June 2012  granted recipients the legal right to work in the United States.

In New York, though, some professional licenses were previously limited by state statute to people who are citizens or  have legal immigration status. The new policy opens the licensing process up to DACA holders, provided they meet all the  educational requirements the licenses require.

California, Florida and Nevada also have eased some licensing restrictions.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman called the Regents' action, which takes effect June 1, "another critical step toward  addressing our broken immigration system."

Supporters of the measure said the candidates, who are often bilingual, can help ease the state's shortage of bilingual  teachers, service providers and school leaders and cut down the wait time that families of English language learners face for  bilingual speech and psychological evaluations and services.

A public comment period that followed preliminary approval of the regulations in February also generated several opposing  views. Some said the Regents should have first expedited the professional licensing process for military spouses, while  others said immigrants who are in the country illegally shouldn't be licensed to teach when there are American-born teachers  who are out of work.

"Why should people who are in the United States illegally be afforded the same rights and privileges as those in this  country legally," one unidentified commenter asked.

The federal policy is aimed at those who entered the U.S. before they were 16 years old and have been here continuously  since 2007. It is not a legal immigration status, but it puts off deportation and gives eligible residents access to things like  legal employment and, in some places, in-state tuition rates at state colleges.