For Estrella Rivas, 20, her dream of becoming a doctor, a surgeon, or maybe a pediatrician remains a tangible reality. She's enrolled at Rutgers University in New Brunswick as a pre-med student carving a path toward that goal.

But there's just one barrier that stands in her way even if she graduates: her status as an undocumented immigrant, which bars her from obtaining a license.

"I just kept pushing, and continuing, and trying to do my best for any chance that came," Rivas, who lives in Elizabeth, New Jersey, said.

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Rivas was born in El Salvador and came to the U.S. when she was five years old, though she's not protected from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals act. She enrolled at Rutgers even though she knew she wouldn't be able to secure a medical license, which is required to practice medicine. Her passion for the field drove her to finish her studies, despite knowing she may not be able to practice it.

Rivas said no matter what career she chose, “there was going to be that hurdle in the way that would allow me to be able to do it. And that's why I stuck with it, because I believe strongly in this career.”

Rivas, who will be a junior this fall, is used to doors shutting in her face — for internships, jobs, and volunteer positions because of her status.

But now a bill passed by the state legislature and currently sitting on Governor Phil Murphy's desk is giving Rivas hope. If signed, the law would remove immigration barriers to all occupational licenses for thousands of people, like Rivas.

If signed, the law would be among the most sweeping of its kind in the country, and the first in the East Coast to waive immigration restrictions for all professional licensing, immigration advocates said. Other states have passed similar laws focused on lifting restrictions in certain industries or in response to specific worker shortages.

New Jersey licenses more than 200 professions including boxers, manicurists, electricians, nurses, and teachers. But most applications ask for a Social Security number or work authorization.

The Migration Policy Institute said there are 14,000 immigrant healthcare workers in the state with under-utilized degrees largely because they're undocumented or they were educated abroad and find it hard to get work.

"During this COVID crisis it would have been a great resource for our hospitals that were overburdened and didn't have enough staff to to work," said Barbara Rosen, the first vice president for The Health Professionals and Allied Employees, the state's largest union of certified nurses.

Estrella Rivas, 20, a junior at Rutgers University, wants to become a doctor. She hopes New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy will allow her to get her medical license under a bill that would allow undocumented immigrants to secure certification regardless of her immigration status.

“To get through these programs, you have to be very motivated,” Rosen said, adding that it was a waste of talent to not let trained professionals get their licenses.

HPAE and dozens of labor groups signed a letter supporting the bill, which passed the state Senate and Assembly last month with bi-partisan support.

Murphy called on nurses and doctors across the country to come help the state during the worst of the pandemic as hospitals were squeezed with labor shortages and a wave of patients.

“You have communities here, right here in your state that can help,” said Erika Martinez, 20, an organizer with Make the Road New Jersey, which helped push the legislation. “But they can't because of those immigration barriers.”

Alyana Alfaro, a spokesperson for Murphy, did not comment on when or if the governor would sign the bill into law. He has signaled support for it.

"Governor Murphy believes that immigrants are a critical part of the fabric of life in New Jersey, and that they should not face unnecessary barriers as they seek to participate in our society and economy," Alfaro said in a statement.

The law would not give undocumented immigrants work authorization. Undocumented immigrants can start their own businesses or operate as independent contractors using an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number to file taxes.

Those protected from deportation under DACA can obtain a professional license depending on the field they choose.

The bill, if enacted, would be a boon to Adriana Gonzalez, 26, a teacher for special needs students in Somerset County and a dreamer under the DACA program. The program is now in legal limbo. This bill could protect her teaching license if DACA ends.

"That certificate is something that I earned,” she said, citing her years of education, her loans, her studies -- the same process U.S. citizens undergo. “People benefitting from this bill aren’t being given anything that they didn’t earn themselves, we all have to take the tests and work our way through.”