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Colorado's undocumented residents can now get career licenses

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With the passage of Senate bill 77, Jessica Gonzalez can now get her license to teach in Colorado.

THORNTON, Colo. — Jessica Gonzalez’ passion for Early Childhood Education started when she was looking for ways to get her own children excited about reading. That passion quickly turned into a career when she started taking courses and completed a Childhood Development Associate credential. 

Things came to a screeching halt when she says she started looking into getting her career license to work— she was told she needed to prove lawful presence in the United States to get one. Gonzalez was disheartened at the news, she says, because that was a barrier she couldn’t overcome. 

She has been volunteering and caring for the children of her church in Thornton. Now, with a bill that was recently signed into law, she’ll be able to use her certification.   

Colorado Voices

Undocumented immigrants can now get career licenses

New legislation allows Colorado's undocumented immigrants to use their career licenses.

Lorena Garcia is the Executive Director for Colorado Statewide Parent Coalition, an organization that was instrumental in passing two laws that help undocumented immigrants get licenses to work.  

Senate Bill 77 is effective in ensuring and supporting childcare providers who cannot prove lawful presence, who want to get licensed, that they can,” explained Garcia.

The second bill, SB21-199, includes the ability to apply for different things like small business loans and the opportunity to take advantage of course development. 

When talking about the two bills Garcia said, “they do the same thing except that 199 goes so much further in including public benefits that isn’t just licensing.”

“Any sort of benefit that is funded by state and local governments, undocumented immigrants will be able to have access to them if they qualify starting in July 2022,” added Garcia.  

This new law also eliminates a requirement that Garcia says will allow entities who receive state or local dollars to contract with undocumented immigrants, something they weren’t allowed to do before. 

In Gonzalez' case, it opens her opportunities to work in center-based child care as a contract teacher. 

She’s planning to get her license and will hopefully work at a school.  

“This is also a win for my husband and children who are watching what mommy is doing,” Gonzalez said in Spanish. 

She says this process is an example for her family and children to not to give up on their dreams. 


Sonia Gutierrez is a multimedia journalist with Rocky Mountain PBS. You can reach her at soniagutirrez@rmpbs.org

Julio Sandoval is a multimedia journalist with Rocky Mountain PBS. You can reach him at juliosandoval@rmpbs.org.

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