Proposed SC bill would allow DACA students the right to obtain occupational and professional licenses


Medical workers tend to a patient affected with the COVID-19 in the Amiens Picardie hospital Tuesday, March 30, 2021 in Amiens, north of Paris. European countries scrambled Monday, April 5 to tamp down a surge in COVID-19 cases and ramp up vaccinations, hoping to spare hospitals from becoming overwhelmed by the pandemic’s latest deadly wave of infections. (AP Photo/Francois Mori, File)

GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) – Thousands of DACA students in South Carolina could soon be able to become nurses and cosmetologists if a bill now sitting in the senate is passed.

DACA stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The program is for students who came as children to the United States unlawfully and defers deportation. Protection is good for two years and can be renewed.

The bill, sponsored by Pickens County Representative Neal Collins, would let people who are lawfully here in the state obtain professional licenses. It also applies to survivors of sex trafficking.

This week, State Representative Neal Collins and 97 other state legislators said yes to H 3243.

“This week we passed legislation that would allow those who are lawfully present and have a valid federal work permit, to be able to have occupational licensing in South Carolina,” State Representative Neal Collins said. “Which South Carolina currently prohibits.”

Those licenses range anywhere from nursing, to real estate, to cosmetology.

Students can learn here, they just can’t actually practice in the state.

“Going through paying out-of-state tuition in our state colleges, and then majoring in nursing and then finding out after graduating that they could not receive a license in nursing.”

Which Collins said is causing many students to leave the state to find jobs elsewhere.

Right now, according to the University of South Carolina, the state is dealing with a major nursing shortage.

“This is not a political issue,” Collins said. “This is a workforce issue and this is a matter of just practicality.”

“Our entire state benefits when we have a fully-staffed profession, especially the critical ones,” said Director of College and Career Readiness at Spartanburg Academic Movement, Meghan Smith.

She’s been involved with immigration reform issues for several years now.

“For our residents of our state to be best served, we need qualified people who are able to fill those spots,” said Smith.

Smith said some backlash on the bill has to do with people assuming that giving a license to a DACA recipient takes one away from someone else.

“We’re not just handing out licenses like lollipops here,” Smith said. “These are for people who have done the education, who have put in the hours.”

Smith said we’re at a critical spot in time when it comes to our nurses.

“We need to be doing all that we can to be removing barriers so that our state’s students and those needing medical care as patients and as students have access to a fully staffed nursing and the teaching profession,” said Smith.

H 3243 now sits in the Senate where it will go through the full process of the subcommittee before it hits the full Senate floor.

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