May 3, 2023
New Legislation to Provide More Opportunities for Dreamers to Work as Nurses and in Health Occupations
Washington, DC – TheDream.US, the nation’s largest college access and success program for immigrant youth, is celebrating Maryland’s enactment of SB187/HB454 – state legislation that will allow anyone, regardless of their immigration status, to apply for health care licensure or certification for nursing or any other health professions. We have dubbed the legislation, “Ewa’s bill,” after Ewaoluwa Obatuase, a remarkable TheDream.US Scholar and Trinity Washington University alumna who advocated for this legislation’s passage.
In November 2021, Ewa wrote a blog post for New America, “One Way Maryland Can Better Support Undocumented Students in Higher Education,” that caught the attention of Maryland legislators such as Senator Cheryl Kagan, Delegate Lesley Lopez, and Delegate Joseline Peña-Melnyk. During the legislative process, Ewa also submitted testimony in support of the legislation. Now, thanks to Ewa’s courage and the tireless efforts of countless others, this bill has become a reality and was signed into law today.
According to Donald Graham, co-founder of TheDream.US:
“There is a critical shortage of nurses and other health care occupations in Maryland and in many other states across the country. Dreamers can help fill the void – among our TheDream.US Scholars and alumni, more major in health careers than any other field. Opening Maryland’s health-care licensure to all qualified applicants regardless of their immigration status is a step forward for Maryland’s overall health security and for these immigrant students who are ready to put their education to work.
We also are inspired by the story of how this legislation came to be enacted. We watched with pride as Ewa’s analysis and personal testimony made a compelling case for its passage. This bill is a step forward for undocumented students and sensible state policymaking and a testament to the power of one individual to make a difference.”
Senator Cheryl Kagan added:
“Passing SB187 is a win-win for Maryland, a state ranked last in emergency room wait times. Hospitals can now bring in critically needed staff, while we build a more robust healthcare workforce that better reflects and serves our communities.”
Delegate Lesley Lopez said:
“I know that I’m only here because those before me were willing to work hard and stand up to challenges. My Grandpa Lopez, who came to this country as an immigrant, worked like hell to become a U.S. citizen and contribute as a new American. That’s why I introduced HB454, providing healthcare licensure opportunities for all, regardless of their immigration status.
This bill strengthens the futures of immigrants, fills crucial workforce needs, and strengthens our state’s economy and cohesion. The health care community uniformly supported this legislation, as Maryland needs more qualified health professionals in every setting. This bill will allow Dreamers who have already invested in our state to apply for licensure and contribute to Maryland.”
In contrast to some high profile state efforts to restrict, unwind, or deny opportunities for Dreamers, the new Maryland legislation, which garnered bipartisan support, is a reminder that other states – red and blue alike – are expanding opportunities for undocumented students and residents.
TheDream.US is the nation’s largest college and career success program for undocumented immigrant students, having provided more than 8,750 college scholarships to Dreamers attending over 80 partner colleges in 21 states and Washington, DC. We believe everyone, regardless of where they were born, should have equitable access to a college education, a meaningful career, and opportunities to contribute to the communities they call home. For more information on TheDream.US, visit www.thedream.us