Leading Organizations Call On New York State Legislature to Pass the Empire State Licensing Act

ALBANY, NY – A group of 45 national and state leading immigration, education, and community advocacy organizations today sent a letter to the New York State Legislature and Governor Kathy Hochul urging the passage of the Empire State Licensing Act (S.03046/A.01952), sponsored by State Senator Gustavo Rivera (D-Bronx) and Assemblymember Catalina Cruz (D-Queens).

If passed, this legislation would remove arbitrary restrictions that hinder New York immigrants’ ability to obtain professional licensing, preventing much-needed economic growth statewide. Enabling professional individuals to develop their specialty or trade would also help ease the ongoing labor shortage taking place in a wide variety of industries.

Nearly one in four New York workers is an immigrant, and the entire immigrant community collectively contributes billions in annual taxes, fills jobs skill gaps, and in many cases, spurs investment and job creation that helps to revitalize communities. This includes undocumented immigrants who work in essential industries, including health care, construction, food services, home care, and the care economy. However, current law prohibits many of these workers from obtaining certain licenses to continue their current employment or find new jobs in the areas in which they are most qualified.

As New York leads the nation in population decline, and as the state’s population ages, it is crucial lawmakers put reforms in place to tap into the talent and skills of New York’s immigrant labor force. The state will only fully recover from the years-long economic downturn by removing these significant employment barriers.

The full letter and all signatories can be viewed HERE. Participating organizations and lead bill sponsors issued the following statements in response to today’s letter release and in support of the Empire State Licensing Act:

State Senator Gustavo Rivera (D-Bronx), Lead Bill Sponsor: “I want to thank the colleagues and organizations who have joined Assemblymember Cruz and I to support the Empire State Licensing Act. This legislation is critical to ensuring that immigrants and all New Yorkers have access to opportunities to grow their careers, support their families, and contribute to our economy, regardless of status or language spoken. Passing this legislation is not only the right thing to do but the smart economic and community decision to make as well. I am committed to working to get this to the Governor’s desk.”

Assemblymember Catalina Cruz (D-Queens), Lead Bill Sponsor: “As an immigrant and legislator, I have been and remain committed to ensuring that all New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status, are able to access opportunity and contribute to our state. While arbitrary restrictions are holding many back, harming immigrants, our broader communities, and economy, we have the opportunity to address this issue with a solution – the Empire State Licensing Act. I thank my colleagues and the community for their support for this legislation, and look forward to working together to get it across the finish line.

Eddie A. Taveras, Political Director of Immigration Campaigns, FWD.us: “New York has been a home for immigrants for centuries, relying heavily on its foreign-born population to remain socially, culturally, and economically diverse. However, New York’s immigration population is plateauing while our overall population is declining, which is jeopardizing the future success of our state, especially as we are working to rebuild from the pandemic. Thankfully, State Senator Rivera and Assemblymember Cruz are fighting to make New York a more welcoming, forward-thinking state by eliminating arbitrary barriers that expands access to professional licensing and necessary permits to all New Yorkers – regardless of status. This is one step of many we can be taking to make the state a more welcoming place for immigrants while ensuring our economies and communities can become more resilient.”

Murad Awawdeh, Executive Director, New York Immigration Coalition: “New York's immigrant communities have always played a central role in our state's economy and workforce, yet too many are barred from obtaining specific professional licenses that would allow them to fully contribute. Not only does this hold our communities back, but it prevents all New Yorkers from reaching their true potential. While the nation continues to work towards transformative immigration reform, New York can and must lead the charge in providing greater opportunity for all of its residents. I thank State Senator Rivera and Assemblymember Cruz for their work to battle immigrant injustices while ensuring we can all recover from this health and economic crisis.”

Donna Lieberman, Executive Director, New York Civil Liberties Union: “Everybody should be able to live openly and provide for themselves, their families, and their communities. New York must reduce the restrictions immigrant New Yorkers face to obtain the professional licensing and permits they need to earn a living, especially as we continue to recover from a pandemic that hit immigrant communities so hard. The Empire State Licensing Act by State Senator Rivera and Assemblymember Cruz will allow those who want to obtain professional licensing to contribute to communities across New York.”

Theo Oshiro, Co-Executive Director of Make the Road New York: “The Empire State Licensing Act will impact tens of thousands of immigrants who are qualified to carry out their careers in New York. By removing barriers based on citizenship and immigration status, all New Yorkers will have an equal opportunity to access professional licenses and continue their careers while at the same time remaining an integral part of the state’s workforce and our economy. As we wait for the federal government to act on immigration reform, the state legislature has an opportunity to lead and provide crucial support for immigrants and our economy."

Frankie Miranda, President, Hispanic Federation: “We applaud Senator Rivera and Assemblymember Cruz for their continued efforts to create life changing opportunities for immigrant workers as they lead the Empire State Licensing Act. Passing this bill will enable immigrants throughout New York to attain professional licensing and empower qualified workers to pursue careers that will lead to the overall economic growth of the state. It is critical that in this time of economic recovery, immigrant workers are met with policies that eliminate barriers so that they can reach their full potential and truly participate in our state’s economy.”

Robert Agyemang, New York Director, African Communities Together: “Today, the history of New York immigrants and refugees is storied – they come to this nation to find the American dream, overcome hardships, and pull themselves up from their bootstraps. However, our policies at both the state and federal level do not go far enough to recognize their human, moral and economical value. The Empire State Licensing Act is more than extending professional licensing opportunities for New Yorkers, it is about leveling the playing field so that more willing and able workers can support themselves and feed their families while building a more diverse and competitive workforce. I applaud the work of State Senator Rivera and Assemblymember Cruz for this simple, yet necessary solution and urge the state legislature to pass it swiftly.”

Diana Moreno, Interim Executive Director, New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE): “We remain committed to improving the lives of immigrant workers – especially day laborers, domestic workers, and immigrants who are navigating the legalization process –as they recover from the economic devastation they suffered during the pandemic. This bill would go a long way in helping us do just that. It is imperative we update our state’s outdated immigration laws to help our community improve their ability to obtain dignified work. I thank State Senator Rivera and Assemblymember Cruz for working to pass much-needed reforms to support our immigrant community and encourage the entire state legislature to stand up for immigrants who are the backbone of our society, and who were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.”

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