Monday, June 17: NJ DREAM Act Assembly Hearing, Rally and Press Conference

Media Advisory
For Immediate Release
June 13th, 2013
Media Contact: Vera E. Parra | vparra@afsc.org | 917-519-7656

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The NJ Tuition Equality Act (A.4225) comes before the NJ Assembly Budget Committee for a hearing/vote on Monday, June 17th

11:00am Press Conference: NJ DREAMers, student leaders, and community organizations call on legislators to pass the Tuition Equality Act now!

Trenton, NJ (Monday June 17th, 2013)- The New Jersey Assembly’s Budget Committee will have a hearing /vote on the NJ Tuition Equality Act (A. 4225). Students, leaders in higher education, community groups and faith-based organizations will gather at the State House in Trenton to hold a press conference before testifying in support of the bill at the hearing. 

New Jersey has been the long-term residence and home to an estimated 40,000 undocumented young adults that entered the United States before the age of sixteen. These young people have attended primary and secondary schools in New Jersey but have found themselves financially excluded from accessing higher education; they must pay as out-of-state residents at public universities in NJ. 

The Tuition Equality Act (A. 4225) would address this inequity by permitting every student, regardless of immigration status, who attended a high school in our state for three years, who graduated from a high school or received a GED in NJ, and who signs an affidavit promising to adjust their status (if they’re undocumented)- to qualify for resident/in-state rates at public universities. 

There are 15 states nationwide that have adopted state-level policies to expand educational access to undocumented young adults. The momentum is undeniable- several thousand of these young adults already have work authorization under a federal initiative (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) but cannot access any state or federal financial aid. Amidst high school graduations, while college-bound students are registering for classes and enjoying their summer at the Jersey Shore- this bill must pass now to allow thousands of young people the opportunity to afford some classes for the Fall 2013 semester at universities throughout our state.

Campaign organizers are confident leadership in the Assembly and Senate will pass the NJ Tuition Equality Act before the July 1st recess.Youth leaders and community supporters call on the Senate to schedule a vote before the summer recess, giving Governor Christie the opportunity to enact the NJ Tuition Equality Act.

The New Jersey Dream Act campaign was launched at the State House in Trenton on January 8th and has since been gaining the support of educators, city councils, congregations, and community organizations across the state, most recently including the New Jersey Presidents’ Council. The time to pass this bill is now. With the 5th highest population of undocumented immigrants in the country, New Jersey is far behind.

When: Monday June 17t [Press Conference at 11:00am]
Who: Immigrant Youth, Student Leaders, and Community at Large 
Where: New Jersey State House
125 West State Street
Trenton, NJ 08625

Sponsoring Organizations: New Jersey Dream Act Coalition, New Jersey United Students, Anakbayan-NJ

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The Kickoff Rally in Trenton

By: Akin Olla
Photo Credits: Richard D Hutchinson

On Tuesday, January 8th, the youth of New Jersey and their close allies chose to ring in the New Year in their own special way. The steps of the Trenton state house were draped in the various colors of New Jersey Universities and High Schools, each t-shirt representing the hopes and dreams of the hundreds of thousands of students who would one day walk their hallways, each looking forward to a future of decency and comfort. But despite the aspirations of many New Jersey students, the state that they call home does not treat them in such a welcoming manner.

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Members of the New Jersey DREAM Act Coalition along with New Jersey United Students and Anakbayan (a Filipino youth community organization aimed at educating and mobilizing in efforts to address issues that affect the global Filipino community) have launched a new campaign to set right what has long been wrong in our state. Students without proper documentation, who were often brought to this country unwillingly as children by parents who simply sought a better life for their loved ones, are forced to pay out of state tuition in New Jersey’s public universities. Despite having attended New Jersey high schools and being children of New Jersey tax payers (the non-tax paying immigrant being an outdated myth, with some estimates believing individuals actually pay more than their documented neighbors), these students are forced to pay significantly higher tuition rates than their neighbors.

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The current coalition of youth groups were joined by other students, unions, churches, and community groups all dedicated toward pushing back against the ever increasing costs of higher education in New Jersey (we currently rank #3 in states with the most expensive public four year universities). The kickoff rally itself began around 11:00 pm with an introduction by Marisol Conde-Hernandez, a Rutgers New Brunswick Alumni and a founder of NJDAC. The event was filled with personal stories of the anguish that comes with the inability to attend the Universities of your dreams. Supporters including local clergy and union members impassioned the rally with calls of solidarity with all students and youth of New Jersey. After hours of braving the cold, New Jersey United Students wrapped things up with reminders of the bills, A1659/S2355 and A3509 and a reminder that this was just the beginning of something great.

And who knew how true those words would be; within the next 24 hours, a new bill, S247, was written by Democratic Senator Teresa Ruiz, which lends support to preexisting bills.

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Students, Teachers, and Community Leaders braving the cold for a fairer future.