Immigrant advocacy groups in Maryland and around the country were disappointed on June 23 when a U.S. Supreme Court vote placed the Obama administration’s plans to grant temporary legal status to thousands of immigrants on hold. If the plan had been implemented, illegal immigrants who are the parents of U.S. citizens would have been permitted to seek work permits. With the Obama plan off the table, some immigrant groups are pushing for action on the state level similar to that taken by California lawmakers in 2014.
California has traditionally taken a progressive approach to immigration issues, and it was one of the first states to allow the issuance of driver’s licenses to undocumented workers. Another bill, which was signed into law in 2014, allows individuals who do not have a Social Security number to apply for professional licenses in fields including cosmetology, nursing and architecture, and applicants are able to use a Taxpayer Identification Number instead of a Social Security number to pay their taxes. Approximately 3,000 immigrants have applied for professional licenses since the program went into effect.
While employers in California are still prohibited by federal law from hiring undocumented workers, those possessing professional licenses granted under SB 1159 are able to open businesses and work for themselves. According to data from the Pew Research Center, there are approximately 8 million unauthorized immigrants either working legally or looking for work in the United States.
Living and working legally in America is a dream shared by millions of people around the world, but actually achieving legal status can be a challenging and frustrating process. Experienced immigration attorneys may help immigrants who wish to work in the U.S. by explaining the various of employment-based visa programs and assisting them with their paperwork. Attorneys could also help to ensure that visa applications are submitted in a timely manner and may advocate on behalf of applicants in immigration hearings.