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New career options could soon open for thousands of immigrants in Tennessee

 Certain immigrants who are federally authorized to work will soon be able to advance their careers in a variety of fields, ranging from bartending to teaching to healthcare.
Courtesy Pxart
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Certain immigrants who are federally authorized to work will soon be able to advance their careers in a variety of fields, ranging from bartending to teaching to healthcare.

More career opportunities could be coming for thousands of immigrants in Tennessee. That’s after the legislature gave final passage to a bill that expands eligibility for certain state licenses.

Under current law, some immigrants who are federally authorized to work in the U.S. — like through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program or Temporary Protected Status — are still denied access to the state’s professional and commercial licenses. That can prevent certain immigrants from working in a wide range of fields.

Naomi, who asked that her full name not be used to protect her family’s privacy, found this out as a teenager when she was promoted to server at a restaurant. Her license to serve alcohol was denied because of her status, and she says her boss had to let her go.

“I was going into college that same year. I realized that I could not become a nurse as I wanted to be, or an ultrasound tech, which were two of my main options at the time because I had to get a license to become either one of those jobs,” she says.

The 20-year-old Nashville State Community College student is hopeful that the bill expanding eligibility will be signed into law by the governor. The way it’s written, any person federally authorized to work in the U.S. could gain a license, assuming they’re otherwise qualified. Naomi says it would open doors for her.

“I am so excited that I can finally get a degree in in the field that I’m so passionate about,” she says, “and that I feel like I can thrive in.”

Alexis Marshall is the 2018 fall reporting intern at Nashville Public Radio. She is a senior at Middle Tennessee State University.
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