2019 Session: Bill to license DACA nursing students reaches final stop


LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Help is on the way for DACA recipients who were denied the opportunity to get their nursing license in Arkansas.

The bill, sponsored by St. Rep. Megan Godfrey, D-Springdale, would allow the Arkansas State Board of Nursing to grant licenses to these students whose parents brought them to the country illegally as children.

In 2017, KARK reported how DACA recipients across the state took all of their nursing courses only to be turned away from their licensing exam.

“I have worked very hard to get to where I am so I can help others,” Rosa Ruvalcaba Serna, a DACA nursing student at UAMS, told lawmakers. “I’m not willing to give up on myself.” 

The Senate Public Health Committee unanimously passed the House-approved bill on a voice vote Wednesday, leaving one more stop on the Senate floor before going to the governor. 

“Our state is really desperate for nurses,” Rep. Godfrey told the committee. “The very minimal pushback about the bill has come from those worried that it seems like an immigration issue that should be handled at the federal level. However, this isn’t an immigration bill. This is a professional licensure and workforce bill.”

The governor’s office and state nursing board support the legislation. 

“Like my parents say, ‘If there’s a will, there’s a way. Nothing’s impossible,'” Karla Palma, a DACA nursing student, said after the vote. “This is where my family and my friends are. I want to give back to the community and the place that has given me so much.” 

“A year ago, I didn’t think this would ever happen,” said Ariada Valencia, a DACA nursing student. “Thank you to everybody for allowing people like me, Dreamers, to live out our dreams.”

The Senate will consider the bill Thursday. The chamber passed another proposal Wednesday that would allow certain immigrants, including DACA recipients, to receive in-state tuition at Arkansas colleges and universities. 

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