Commentary: New Mexico’s economic stability was struck by the unexpected COVID-19 pandemic. But as we move diligently in the path of recovery, it makes sense to remove as many barriers as possible to ensure our economy and the residents of our communities can get back on their feet.
During the 2021 Legislative session, we have an opportunity to remove administrative hurdles many hardworking New Mexicnas are facing when trying to access professional licenses, preventing them from fully integrating into our workforce and stimulating our local economies. It is time to remove barriers towards our economic recovery.
As a first-generation immigrant in the U.S., I understand first hand the many challenges people face to gain professional licenses. While I grew up in Georgia, I made the decision to move to New Mexico to pursue my higher education and eventually exercise my career in the state that I now call home.
In December of 2019 I graduated with a respiratory therapist degree from Santa Fe Community College. I was really proud of myself because I had accomplished a dream for myself and my family. I was excited to finally get my professional license until I found out my immigration status was going to be an issue. At which point I felt disappointed, frustrated, hurt, and realized the system was probably not designed for people like me.
Like many New Mexicans across the state I believe hard work should be enough to overcome any challenge and to achieve our goal of a better life for ourselves and our families. Fortunately there was a fix to removing barriers not only for me for thousands of people in our state seeking an opportunity to grow their own business and be part of our recovery workforce.
The fix came in early 2020 in the form of Senate Bill 137–sponsored by Sens. Ivey-Soto and Ortiz y Pino, and Reps. Martínez and Romero. This bill began the process of removing barriers to ensure members of our communities could gain professional licenses. Most importantly, SB137 meant an opportunity to show our parents their sacrifices were worth it, that we belong here and can contribute fully–even more so now that NM is in need of as many professionals possible to recover.
When it comes to how SB137 impacted my life, I am proud to say I have my respiratory therapist license and feel really excited to contribute to the community. SB137 gave me the opportunity not only to work in my career field but also help during this ongoing pandemic. I started working in a hospital in Farmington, N.M just when the pandemic started. I’ve also had the opportunity to support hospitals swamped by the coronavirus in Los Angeles, CA .
Before the end of the 60-day session, we have the chance to show everyone that New Mexico is on the right track to recovery by making sure hardworking New Mexicans, regardless of background, are able to contribute to the community throughout their careers.
We now have the opportunity to expand the great work started by SB137. Sen. Ortiz y Pino is sponsoring Senate Bill 219–a bill that will remove barriers to access more professional licenses desperately needed in New Mexico–a vital step in setting up our state for success as we continue to embark on the road to economic recovery.
SB219 passed the Senate with outstanding bipartisan support. I now urge members of the House to support SB219 to ensure hardworking New Mexicans are part of our much needed recovery and growth.
Christian Farfán is a licensed respiratory therapist and a member of the NM Dream Team.