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How One Woman Changed the Lives of Thousands of DACA Students

After President Trump ordered an end to the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, young undocumented immigrants lost access to several developmental tools, including higher education.

In Arkansas specifically, the State Board of Nursing banned recipients from obtaining nursing licenses, even if they had already paid for and completed school.

When Megan Godfrey, a first-term House Representative for the state of Arkansas, saw how this change in policy was affecting the students in her community, she drafted a bill to permit DACA students, or “Dreamers,” to receive their nursing license. The bill has officially become law.

Megan Godfrey is a Democrat, and just like the other members of her political party, she encourages the support of undocumented children brought to the U.S under circumstances out of their control.

DACA has been successful in helping the development of young immigrants. Students in Arkansas depend on the program to complete school without fear of deportation. A 2017 study found that of the unemployed recipients, 62% are enrolled in school to obtain a bachelor’s degree or higher. One of the most common industries pursued is health services –– a discipline that needs to see more diversity.

When DACA nursing students in Arkansas were prohibited from taking their licensing exams, it came as a shock to the community. Arkansas had already been suffering  a shortage of medical professionals, and those spots were waiting to be filled by young DACA students. Many were left questioning what they would do after already enrolling in nursing classes or having already completed their degrees.

Since the beginning of her term, Godfrey has vocalized the encouragement of diversity and representation both in and out of politics. Compassion is one of her core values, and her work to overturn the ban on nursing licenses for Dreamers shows how that compassion impacts her community.

Godfrey worked personally with a nursing student from the University of Arkansas who was deeply affected by the ban on licenses. Through the help of this student, Godfrey was able to see first-hand how DACA recipients were being set back for the sake of their citizenship status. She drafted legislation in support of the Dreamers that would allow them to take the licensing exam.

The bill easily passed through the Arkansas House and slid through the Senate. It has inspired legislators to take similar action in South Carolina, where DACA recipients are also being affected by the program’s dissolution.

“This bill is a win-win: We are in desperate need for nurses, and these Dreamers — dedicated, resilient, often bilingual — are ideal candidates to serve their communities here in Arkansas. I hope we can do the right thing and keep these Arkansans here in our communities as nurses,” says Godfrey.

Featured Image by Molly Adams on Flickr

Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

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