I met with a high school student today who told me that she is not allowed to sit for the CNA exam in North Carolina because she doesn’t have a Social Security number. I did some research, and it turns out that, despite being extremely unfair, this is the current state of the law in North Carolina.
This young lady, (let’s call her Maria) was born in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. For those who are unaware, San Pedro Sula is known as the murder capital of the world. It is the second largest city in Honduras, and, because of gang activity, someone is murdered there nearly every day. Several of Maria’s family members were murdered by the gangs before she reached her fifth birthday. When she turned five, her mother left her in her grandmothers care, and moved to the United States to try and work and provide for Maria. Maria spent the next seven years without her mother.
When Maria turned twelve, her mother hired a man to bring her to the United States. Maria traveled by bus, and on foot from Honduras to Mexico. When she reached Mexico, the man handed her off to a woman who was going to take her across the border. This woman’s husband attempted to kidnap Maria and rape her, but fortunately she escaped. She met up with another group in Mexico. When these people found out that she was traveling alone at twelve years old, they agreed to help her. Maria followed these people, and crossed the United States border in a raft made from milk jugs and string.
When this new group reached the other side of the river, border control descended upon them. Everyone immediately scattered, and though Maria managed to escape the officers, she found herself alone in the desert with no food, water, or money. Maria followed the road and eventually, she was able to hitchhike her way to North Carolina. She survived only due to the kindness of strangers.
Maria immediately started school in North Carolina, despite the fact that she spoke no English. She was able to learn English during her first year in the United States. Her mother worked nights in a factory, and Maria was alone for much of her childhood. She spent most of her time studying.
Maria is now 19 years old, and in her senior year of high school. She ranks second in her class, and has been offered a scholarship to attend a private university in Charlotte. Her experiences have developed in her a strong sense of empathy. Because of this, she wants to pursue a career in nursing. In pursuit of her goals, she enrolled in the CNA program at her high school. She finished the program with exemplary grades, and, upon preparing for the final exam, she was told that she does not qualify to sit for the exam because she does not hold a social security number.
The Federal Government and the North Carolina legislature enacted this rule in the 90’s, purportedly for the purpose of being able to garnish wages from nurses who were delinquent on their child support. Because of this, Maria remains ineligible to take the CNA exam. In a country with a dearth of nurses, this seems not only unfair, but unacceptable. Until congress takes action on immigration, Maria, and many others like her, will continue to live a life of unfulfilled potential.