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Advocates push for bill that would give lawful immigrants more rights

Gavel on sounding block
Gavel on sounding block(Gray Television)
Updated: Jan. 10, 2020 at 11:56 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A proposed bill aims to give lawful immigrants equal rights in South Carolina.

State advocates say this could give our workforce a boost.

Currently, immigrants such as people with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals ("DACA recipients") are not eligible for in-state tuition rates at state-funded institutions of higher education and can't receive state-funded merit-based scholarships in South Carolina.

They also can't receive an occupational license from the SC Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. That means they aren't eligible for over 30 professions that require licenses.

State Rep. Neal Collins introduced a bill last year, which would give lawfully-present immigrants these educational and professional opportunities.

That bill, along with a companion bill in the Senate, make up the College Access and Workforce Development Act.

Jessikah Motta came to South Carolina from Brazil when she was 9 years old.

She says she wanted to be a nurse until she learned she wouldn’t be able to get a license due to restrictions in the state.

“My whole high school career I knew I wanted to be a pediatric nurse,” Motta said. “This is the place that I call home, so it’s kind of a slap in the face saying you can’t do it even though you’ve been here this whole time.”

Louise Pocock, an immigration policy attorney at South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center, believes this bill would be beneficial to all of South Carolina.

“Allowing this legislation would help our workforce by allowing DACA recipients who meet workforce shortage needs, and other immigrants apply for these positions,” Pocock said. “When you give these workforce opportunities, more DACA recipients and people who are eligible will go to college. They’ll have higher earnings, and they’ll have higher tax increases for the state.”

Advocates are waiting for a judiciary vote, then the bill will be presented to the full house in May.

For more information about the bill, reach out to the South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center at info@scjustice.org.

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