Letter of Support for Tuition Equity for New Jersey DREAMers
To Governor Christie and the Members of the New Jersey Legislature:
We, the undersigned, write to express support for NJ A1659/S2355 and A3509/S2479. New Jersey’s A1659/S2355 would allow all students who attended a high school in New Jersey for at least three years, and graduated or received an equivalent degree, to qualify for in-state/resident rates at New Jersey’s public institutions of higher education, regardless of immigration status. A3509/S2479 would allow some undocumented students to be eligible for both in-state/resident rates at New Jersey’s public institutions of higher education, and state financial aid.
These bills are New Jersey-centered policies that provide opportunities in the spirit of the Federal DREAM Act. The DREAM Act is a federal bill that would provide a path towards citizenship for certain undocumented immigrant youth that entered the U.S. as children, and that either complete a minimum of two years of a college education or serve the U.S. military for at least two years.
The United States is home to approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants. In New Jersey, we are home to the fifth-largest population of undocumented immigrants in the country. They are part of the 21% of New Jerseyans that are foreign-born. The undocumented immigrant population in New Jersey makes up 6.2% of the total state population, making it the fourth-highest rate in the nation.
The unauthorized population, although heavily scapegoated for the economic recession and instability, actually contribute financially to the country. Specifically, in New Jersey unauthorized immigrants make up 8.6% of the state’s workforce and paid $446.1 million in state and local taxes in 2010. If all unauthorized immigrants in New Jersey were deported, the state would lose $24.2 billion in economic activity.
Nationally, of the 11 million unauthorized immigrants, an estimated 1 million are under the age of 18, attending primary and secondary schools; an additional 1 million entered the country as minors and are now adults, having spent a substantial part of their lives in the United States. In the case Plyer vs. DOE (1982), the United States Supreme Court ruled that every child in the United States has access to attend public primary and secondary schools regardless of immigration status.
Unauthorized immigrants are legally allowed to attend colleges in New Jersey. However, despite having grown up in New Jersey, they do not qualify as residents of the State of New Jersey. This means that these students pay out-of-state, as opposed to in-state or in-county, rates of tuition. They are also barred from obtaining all public financial aid, both federal and state. Their lack of U.S. documentation also often disqualifies the students from receiving most scholarships. As it stands, many college students who are U.S. Citizens already grapple with skyrocketing tuition, dwindling financial resources to afford a university education, and exponentially growing debt. Combined with the additional challenges facing undocumented youth, New Jersey’s current policies effectively bar thousands of young people in New Jersey from attending institutions of higher education after graduating from high schools. The aforementioned bills, A1659/S2355 and A3509/S2479, would address these current inequalities.
A3509/S2479 permits eligibility for resident rates of tuition and state aid if the applicants have applied for the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Deferred Action is an administrative order announced on June 15th, 2012, that allows DREAM Act-eligible youth to obtain protection from deportation and eligibility for a work permit for a period of two years. Immigrant youth are still undocumented, even if granted Deferred Action, as it does NOT confer any legal status, and therefore, they are still ineligible for all federal and state benefits. While Deferred Action is a step forward, it only provides protection from deportation; it does not increase the educational opportunities for these students.
The proposed policies are not new; twelve states already have in-state tuition policies. New Jersey is behind on providing tuition equity for its young immigrant population. We are home to the seventh-highest number of potential DREAM Act beneficiaries. We cannot afford to let thousands of immigrant youth in our state continue to drop out of high school because the goal of a college education seems unattainable or unaffordable. We cannot afford to deprive immigrant youth the opportunity to pay the same rate at public universities as their resident peers for a legal predicament they had no control over. We need as many college-educated young people in our state to give us a competitive edge, nationally and globally, and to thereby invest back MORE into the state economy.
We stand with college students and immigrant youth in New Jersey, and ask you to join us by supporting New Jersey bills A1659/S2355 and A3509/S2479.
Sincerely, The Undersigned,
New Jersey DREAM Act Coalition
New Jersey United Students
Anakbayan – NJ
Working Families United for New Jersey
Latin America Legal Defense & Education Fund (LALDEF)
New Jersey Citizen Action
Latino Action Network
New Jersey Working Families Alliance
New Brunswick Renter’s Union
Hispanic Council On Social Policy Center For Community Development
Latinos Unidos Civic Association
Latino Leadership Alliance of New Jersey
New Jersey Black Issues Convention
Ironbound Community Corporation
Wind of Spirit
Pan-American Concerned Citizen Action League (PACCAL)
National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON)
Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FIRE)
Liwanag Kultural Center
Pilipino Association of Workers and Immigrants of Silicon Valley (PAWIS-SV)
United We Dream
National Korean American Service and Education Consortium (NAKASEC)
Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC)
LAZOS America Unida
Religious and Faith Organizations
The Episcopal Diocese of NJ
The Episcopal Church of St. John the Evangelist (New Brunswick)
The Episcopal Church of St. Andrew’s (Camden)
Christ Episcopal Church (Trenton)
Grace Episcopal Church (Plainfield)
Iglesia Episcopal San Jose (Elizabeth)
Sacred Heart Church, Roman Catholic (New Brunswick)
Canterbury House of the Episcopal Campus Ministry at Rutgers University (New Brunswick)
New Jersey AFL-CIO
Communications Workers of America-New Jersey, AFL-CIO
New Jersey Firefighters’ Mutual Benevolent Association
Perth Amboy Federation/AFT Local 857
Council of New Jersey State College Locals, AFT, AFL-CIO
Montclair State University Adjuncts, AFT Local 6025
TCNJ Federation of Teachers, AFT Local 2364 (AFL-CIO)
SEIU 1199 – United Healthcare Workers East – New Jersey Region
SEIU Local 32BJ
Student and Youth Organizations
Rutgers University Student Assembly (Rutgers-New Brunswick)
Rutgers Student Union (Rutgers-New Brunswick)
Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund (Rutgers-New Brunswick)
Latino Student Council (Rutgers University-New Brunswick)
Rutgers United Students Against Sweatshops (Rutgers-New Brunswick)
Glassboro Student Union (Rowan University)
Rowan University Student Government Association (Rowan University)
Students for a Democratic Society (Montclair State University)
Femvolution (Montclair State University)
Red Hawk Student Union (Montclair State University)
MSU Student Government Association (Montclair State University)
Kean Student Union (Kean University)
Gothic Knight Grassroots (New Jersey City University)
NJCU Student Government Organization (New Jersey City University)
Latin American Student Organization (Montclair State University)
Rutgers Tuition Equity Coalition (Rutgers-New Brunswick)
Students for Justice in Palestine (Rutgers-New Brunswick)
RU Choice (Rutgers-New Brunswick)
Tent State XI: Tent State for In-State (Rutgers-New Brunswick)
United Latino Association (Rowan University)
Filipino Association (FAST) (Stevens Institute of Technology)
Ethnic Student Council (ESC) (Stevens Institute of Technology)
La Unida Latina, Lambda Upsilon Lambda Fraternity, Inc. (Stevens Institute of Technology)
Latin American Association (LAA) (Stevens Institute of Technology)
Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) (Stevens Institute of Technology)
Barkada (Filipino-American Club) (Farleigh Dickinson University)
The Jersey City Council
Higher Education Leaders
More Supporters to come!
Andrew Gonzalez, Old Bridge Board of Education member
The Right Reverend George Councell, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey
Janice Fine Associate Professor of Labor Studies and Employment Relations (Rutgers-New Brunswick)
American Immigration Council. (2012 January). New Americans in New Jersey: the Political and Economic Power of Immigrants, Latinos, and Asians in the Garden State.
Batalova, J., & McHugh, M. (2010 July) DREAM vs reality: An analysis of potential DREAM Act Beneficiaries. National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy. Migration Policy Institute. Washington D. C.
Passel, J.S., & Cohn, D. (2011, February 1). Unauthorized immigrant population: National and state trends, 2010.
Pew Hispanic Center. (2011, February 17). Statistical portrait of the foreign-born population in the United States, 2009.