Less than three months after posting a blog post on a think tank’s website, a University of Maryland graduate student has just testified before the state legislature in support of the legislation she proposed , to open new doors for undocumented immigrants like her.
Ewaoluwa Ogundana MPP ’23 highlighted an urgent problem: some people who are educated in Maryland cannot work in the state, including in fields like nursing and teaching which are in urgent need of staff. Two new bills, inspired by his position, would prohibit a national professional or trade licensing board from denying license, certification or registration to qualified individuals solely on the basis of their immigration status.
Speaking before the Maryland Senate was the latest step for Ogundana in her ongoing advocacy to support undocumented students, especially in higher education.
“It was surreal,” she said. “I never thought it would be addressed so soon, but I had a lot of support from my network. It was great to see it finally gain traction with those in power who could do something about it. .
Ogundana is especially grateful to Don Graham, president of TheDream.US, whom she first met when the organization gave her a scholarship to attend college. She shared her blog post with former Washington Post editor Graham, and he brought it to the attention of Maryland state lawmakers like Del. Joseline A. Peña-Melnyk (D-Prince George’s), who sponsored the House bill.
“We are currently in a labor crisis that we have been trying to prevent for a long time, which is causing immense pressure on our workers and our economy. Expanding access to licensure will help bring immediate relief,” Peña-Melnyk said during the February 15 House hearing, pointing to severe staffing shortages in hospitals, nursing homes retirement and schools during the pandemic. Nearly 40% of Maryland’s population work in jobs that require a professional license, such as accountants, educators, and estheticians. The legislation would give undocumented immigrants who meet educational and other qualifications set by the councils a chance to fill these positions.
If the bills pass, Maryland will join five other states, including California and New Jersey, in removing that barrier. It’s the next logical step in a state that already offers classes at state colleges and universities as well as a free community college for undocumented students who meet certain requirements, Ogundana said.
She came to Maryland from Nigeria with her family when she was 4 and never thought much about her immigration status until she started applying to college – and s found herself cut off from financial aid and scholarship options open to her peers. Luckily, she was able to get some protections through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which gave her a social security number and the ability to stay in the country legally, provided she renews. its status every two years.