The Latino Action Network is a grassroots organization composed of individuals and organizations that are committed to engaging in collective action at the local, state and national levels in order to advance the equitable inclusion of the diverse Latino communities in all aspects of United States society.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

BREAKING: Gov. Murphy Signs Landmark Legislation to Expand Access to State Higher Education Aid for New Jersey Dreamers, Immigrant Youth Declare Victory

As seven state coalition sues to end the DACA program, New Jersey has taken a bold step to stand up for undocumented students and DACA recipients

New Jersey Dreamers launch to get the word out about new financial aid bill

Newark, NJ — Today, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed landmark legislation into law that will grant access to state aid at public and private colleges and universities for New Jersey Dreamers. The law will permit qualified students to apply for aid starting in the Fall 2018 semester, making New Jersey the tenth state in the nation to offer state financial aid to DACA and undocumented students and one of only a few states to allow students who attend private schools to also apply for state financial aid.

The bill’s signing comes after a more than five year long effort organized by New Jersey Dreamers with the support of community organizations like Wind of the Spirit and Make the Road New Jersey, the ACLU of New Jersey, New Jersey Policy Perspective and the Latino Action Network. The bill’s signing completes the New Jersey Dream Act, which passed in 2013, and allowed Dreamers who have attended and graduated from high school in New Jersey the right to be considered for instate tuition rates. Governor Christie vetoed the part of the bill that would have given Dreamers access to state financial aid back in 2013.

Under the law, a student demonstrating financial need who has attended high school in New Jersey for at least three years, graduated or received an equivalent diploma from a state high school and enrolls and files an affidavit with a New Jersey college is eligible to apply for any student financial aid program administered by the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority (HESAA) or the Secretary of Higher Education.

Last month, the New Jersey State Legislature, led by Senator Teresa Ruiz and Assemblyman Gary Schaer, along with Senators Sandra Cunningham and Nellie Pou, and Assemblywoman Annette Quijano and Assemblywoman Mila Jasey, took a historic vote in support to expand access to financial aid to New Jersey’s undocumented students and DACA recipients. Immigrant youth, legislators, educators, allied organizations such as Make the Road New Jersey, Wind of the Spirit, New Jersey Policy Perspective, ACLU New Jersey, New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice, Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund, American Friends Service Committee, Faith in New Jersey, Latino Action Network joined to celebrate the vote.

In the wake of ongoing federal attacks on immigrant young people, including President Trump’s decision to revoke the DACA program, states have had varying responses. The Arizona Supreme Court upheld a decision to bar DACA recipients from instate tuition. A seven state coalition, led by Texas, is suing the federal government to end any remains of the DACA program. Today, New Jersey has made a bold move to support DACA recipients and undocumented students.

“Today New Jersey has taken a bold step to stand up for undocumented students like me at a moment when the federal government would rather deport us then see us graduate from college. We thank Senator Teresa Ruiz, Senator Sandra Cunningham, Senator Nellie Pou, Assemblyman Gary Schaer, Assemblywoman Annette Quijano, and Assemblywoman Mila Jasey for their leadership, and Governor Phil Murphy for his long-standing commitment to defend Dreamers,” said Erika Martinez, youth leader at Make the Road New Jersey and high school senior.

“New Jersey has invested in all of our students throughout their K-12 academic careers,” said Senator Teresa Ruiz. “To limit the ability of our DREAMers to attend college after their high school graduation does a disservice to them and the entire state.  “Today, we are fulfilling a promise made to our DREAMers, who only know New Jersey as their home, that they are entitled to the same financial opportunities as their peers to fulfill their higher education aspirations.  Whenever our state embraces the talents, intellect, creativity and determination of its youth, its future, like theirs’ becomes brighter and richer.”

“This commonsense policy will put undocumented students – and New Jersey – on the path toward greater economic prosperity while helping build stronger communities,” said Erika Nava, a Policy Analyst at New Jersey Policy Perspective. “Equal access to higher education for all students, regardless of status, enables undocumented students who graduated from our high schools to have a real shot at earning a college degree. This will help us develop a more highly-educated workforce, strengthening our economy and building a brighter future for all New Jerseyans.”

“This legislation recognizes the difficult financial burden undertaken by  many New Jersey families to achieve a college education. More importantly, this legislation acknowledges the aspiration embraced by DREAMers to provide a better life for themselves, their families, and our own state.  The enactment of this bill, which will cost each taxpayer 17 cents per year, is an investment not only in the economic future of New Jersey, but an investment in all of its citizens.” said Assemblyman Gary Schaer.

“DREAMers are an integral part of our state, and for many of these young people it is the only home they’ve known. Improving access to college by allowing eligibility for financial aid programs, in addition to in-state tuition rates, is about doing the right thing for students who have worked hard to be successful and continue contributing to our state," said Senator Sandra Cunningham. “I am proud to sponsor this legislation and to be part of the effort to provide resources that are very necessary for our New Jersey student population.”

"Opening our financial aid programs to more students will make affording a college education possible for more New Jersey families,” said Assemblywoman Annette Quijano. "Any student who has attended a New Jersey high school, received their diploma, and aims to clear up their immigration status should be allowed to apply for financial aid to help with college costs just as any other student in their graduating class. This is a historic day for New Jersey and I am proud to sponsor this legislation.”

“Advocates and student activists have been fighting for years to secure a meaningful opportunity for immigrant students to pay for college. When all of our young people have access to higher education, our communities grow stronger,” said Dianna Houenou, Policy Counsel at ACLU of New Jersey. 

“This new law sends a clear and important message that all of New Jersey's students should have access to financial aid. We applaud the Legislature and Governor Murphy for taking this step to turn the dream of higher education into a reality.”

“This day is the culmination of 15 years of struggle,” said Frank Argote-Freyre, Chair of the Latino Action Network Foundation. “We can all rest easier today knowing that more students will - for the foreseeable future - have greater access to a college education. Their horizons are considerably brighter than they were yesterday. This is a victory for knowledge over ignorance."
Joao Paulo Silva, organizer at the American Friends Service Committee added: "As a DACA recipient, this will not only change my life but the lives of thousands here in New Jersey. Today’s signing is an affirmation that I and other immigrants belong and are here to stay. I'm heading to Rutgers New Brunswick next semester to finish my bachelors in Biomedical Engineering.”

“Rutgers AAUP-AFT is proud to have supported this legislation since the original Dream Act was approved in 2013. We commend the sponsors, legislative leadership and Governor Murphy for their vision and perseverance. It is long overdue and all of the advocates that have fought hard over the years are to be applauded –students, alumni, faculty, and our labor and community allies. Our students benefit directly, but we all are impacted in positive and meaningful ways when opportunity is available to all,” added Patrick Nowlan, Executive Director of Rutgers AAUP-AFT.

"Immigrants’ rights advocates across New Jersey proudly stand with Governor Murphy signing into law equal opportunity for financial aid for all students regardless of immigration status. This will help many young immigrants and their families afford college and achieve their dreams,” said Johanna Calle, director of New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice. “It is a great first step which puts New Jersey on the path to ensuring that our state policies reflect the needs of our communities. As the fight for immigrant communities continues, we will continue to work with legislators to address the other major challenges that young immigrants face including expanding access to driver’s licenses so they can drive to school and continue to support their families.”

“When policies at the federal level have purposely and systematically excluded immigrants in our communities, New Jersey stands up. Our state legislature is showing the country that immigrants are valued in our state. Access to statewide tuition assistance is a huge win that will lead to the development of new leaders, diverse representation, and increased GDP. This win is not only for immigrants, this win is for all New Jerseyans,” said Adriana Abizadeh, executive director of the Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

“We’re celebrating a meaningful victory today. We know that Dreamers have made significant contributions to New Jersey’s economy by working hard and earning an education,” said Kevin Brown, 32BJ Vice President and New Jersey State Director. “While the Trump Administration continues to derail efforts at a meaningful solution for the 800,000 students who are our neighbors, co-workers , and friends, here in New Jersey Gov. Murphy understands that having an educated workforce benefits us all.”

We the Dreamers, a student group at Essex County College, added: “The state of New Jersey is finally awarding equal rights to undocumented students. This eligibility for state financial aid will allow students, who were at a disadvantage, to continue pursuing higher education regardless of any financial barriers. Many undocumented students have had to give up their dream of attending or finishing college. Now, New Jersey has opened its doors to the undocumented youth and has given them the opportunity to achieve their goals. This step forward will allow DREAMers and other undocumented students to pursue their careers.”

Absent the passage of the DREAM Act or other breakthrough in immigration policy, ensuring equal access to financial aid will allow students to finish college on time and decrease dropout rates. New Jersey follows the lead of nine other states, from bright blue California to deep red Texas, creating a national movement that will empower immigrant youth through education, as college access is vital to Dreamers’ ability contribute to their families, their communities and the future of this nation.  The legislation is a key step to making New Jersey a fair and welcoming state, in addition to expanding access to drivers’ licenses and ensuring the state does not aid in mass deportations.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.