Originally published by IndyStar
Perla Alamillo feared that after studying for four years to fulfill her longtime dream of becoming a nurse, she would be denied the opportunity when the state of Indiana began denying professional licenses to DACA recipients last fall.
But the 23-year-old University of Indianapolis senior's fear turned to relief Wednesday when Gov. Eric Holcomb signed into law a measure that will once again allow Dreamers like her to obtain professional licenses in more than 70 occupations.
"It’s just really great," she said. "It was really weighing on me because I’ve done all this work for four years and I thought my whole future was going to change and I was going to have to move away from my family."
The measure is one of two Holcomb signed Wednesday afternoon. The other legalizes low-THC cannabidiol, or CBD, oil in Indiana.
Senate Enrolled Act 52 allows any person to buy, sell and possess CBD oil, as long as it meets certain labeling requirements and contains no more than 0.3 percent THC, the substance that produces a "high."
The new DACA law changes the citizenship verification requirements for obtaining professional licenses to include the roughly 9,000 young immigrants in Indiana who were brought to the United States illegally as children but granted legal work status under the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
he Holcomb administration began screening out DACA recipients last fall through a change in the application forms used by the Indiana Professional Licensing Agency, which coordinates licensing for nearly one in seven Indiana workers.
The move, which was the subject of a Feb. 27 IndyStar story, effectively locked out DACA recipients from scores of occupations, ranging from nursing to architecture to hair styling.
Holcomb defended the change to the application forms, arguing that it was necessary to comply with a 2011 state immigration law. But he also supported legislative efforts to remove the licensing barrier.
“I support removing impediments in state law that keep Indiana’s DACA recipients from skilling up and going to work," he said in a statement Wednesday after signing the legislation into law.The DACA program, established by President Barack Obama in 2012, protects immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children from deportation and grants them legal work status.
DACA participants pay taxes and can obtain Indiana driver's licenses and social security numbers, but can't qualify for many public benefits, including food stamps.
While the new Indiana law provides some peace of mind for DACA recipients, the program's future remains unclear at the federal level.
President Donald Trump had planned to end the DACA program earlier this month, but that move was blocked when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review a federal judge's order that the Trump administration continue the program.
In the meantime, the fate of the nation's nearly 700,000 DACA recipients has been a source of tense negotiations in Congress, leading to a three-day government shutdown in January as Democrats briefly demanded a DACA solution as part of a spending bill.
Democrats want the program left alone or made permanent through a new law; Republicans, with Trump's backing, have demanded other immigration enforcement and border security enhancements in exchange, including an expansion of the wall along the Mexican border.
The new CBD oil law is an effort to end nearly a year of confusion over Indiana's CBD oil laws, which resulted in dozens of excise police confiscations at stores across the state last year.
The bill is also silent on the legality of manufacturing the product in Indiana, which could lead to more legal debates in the future.
Holcomb, however, had no qualms about the act.
“Indiana lawmakers delivered a bill that ensures Hoosiers who benefit from CBD oil can access it," he said in a statement. "The bill provides much needed clarity, with labeling requirements and a 0.3% THC limit on CBD products."
USA Today and IndyStar reporter Kaitlin Lange contributed to this story.