Governor Kate Brown signs Senate Bill 855 into law

Governor Kate Brown signs Senate Bill 855 into law

On Wednesday, Sept. 18, dozens gathered in Salem as Governor Kate Brown signed Senate Bill 855 into law.

During the 2019 Legislative Session, both Partners in Diversity and the Portland Business Alliance testified in support of the bill. A 2014 report commissioned by the Alliance and Partners in Diversity, found that more than 55,000 immigrants and refugees call Oregon home, and of that, 15,000 are unemployed or working in low wage jobs, despite having degrees as medical doctors, nurses, engineers, teachers, pharmacists, phycologists, etc.

Historically in Oregon immigrants and refugees with professional degrees from overseas have been forced to go back to school and re-earn their degrees from a U.S college or university. In hard numbers, the cost to Oregon in unrealized tax revenue from professional income is $27.7 million in state and local taxes. If these individuals were working at their credentialed level they would be making $272.5 million in salary and wages.

With the passing of SB 855, Oregon’s licensure boards now must find pathways for immigrants and refugees who received their advanced degree from a foreign university and, due to their immigration visa, are not allowed to work in their field of expertise. The bill will begin to directly address the clear economic inequities by directing state professional licensure boards to develop pathways to licensure and certification for non-citizens.

It is time to identify and remove the existing barriers to full employment that immigrants—particularly those who are foreign educated—face in the Oregon labor market.

The Portland Business Alliance and Partners in Diversity are proud to have supported the passing of SB 855. It is a move in the right direction, expanding access to courses that teach professional English and filling educational gaps that will provide substantial returns on for the State’s economy and communities of color in Oregon.