New practices implemented by the administration of Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb are preventing young immigrants known as "Dreamers" from entering more than 70 professions. The hiring alterations affect almost 9,300 people in the state.
"Dreamers" are young immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children. These immigrants are beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which was implemented by former President Barack Obama.
The Indiana Professional Licensing Agency (PLA), a government agency, recently added new questions about applicants’ citizenship status to its license applications, according to The Indianapolis Star. Newly-implemented questions allow the agency to prevent these young immigrants from entering into dozens of industries. The changes prohibit these immigrants from applying for professional licenses.
The PLA pointed to a 2011 Indiana immigration law when explaining alterations to its application policy. The 2011 legislation, which was passed when Republicans controlled both chambers of the Indiana congress, instructs state agencies to confirm that individuals are either citizens or qualified aliens before providing any state benefits, including professional licenses.
Meredith Lizza, the legislative affairs director for the PLA, said the agency used social security numbers until last year to check immigration status.
Beneficiaries of DACA can obtain social security numbers. Lizza said the agency accordingly needed to change its hiring methods to comply with the 2011 state legislation. Now, applicants must legally swear they are citizens or qualified aliens. DACA recipients are neither under federal law, the agency said.
Lizza said the alterations were merely a necessity to conform to the law.
"We don’t create public policy," she said. "We do have to follow the letter of the law."
The industries that young immigrants are now unable to enter include architecture, nursing, and social work, among others.
President Donald Trump has repeatedly lambasted immigration policy since taking office. Despite the partisan divide on how to reform immigration laws, recent polls indicate a vast majority of Americans support a path to citizenship for individuals brought into the country as children without proper documentation.
Obama's DACA policy was a significant step toward establishing legal protections for these individuals. But Attorney General Jeff Sessions stated last year that he would end the Obama-era program in March 2018.
Indiana's Republican governor replaced Mike Pence after Pence took his position in Washington as vice president. Holcomb's political stances are decisively less extreme than Pence's. When asked last year about the Trump administration's plan to end DACA, Holcomb declined to answer directly. Instead, he offered vague statements.
But by instructing state agencies to bar young immigrants from entering scores of jobs, Holcomb is indicating his views on the immigration debate. His use of existing legislation to implement exclusionary measures also hints at how state bodies can use state policies to ostracize young immigrants until the federal program is phased out.
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