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Jersey City Council approves tuition, aid for children of undocumented immigrants


The Jersey City Council on February 27th approved a resolution proposing to allow undocumented children to qualify for in-state tuition and access to state financial aid at New Jersey’s public colleges and universities. The resolution was jointly sponsored by Councilman-At-Large Rolando R. Lavarro, Jr. and Ward C Councilwoman Nidia Lopez. Outside, DREAM Act immigrants, activists and church leaders chanted “Undocumented, unafraid” up and down Grove Street fronting the City Hall building. Later, the DREAMERs were ushered inside City Hall to make their statements. A dozen DREAMers gave powerful testimonials at the public hearing which ended with a unanimous city council vote in favor of the resolution. Resolution J declares “that Jersey City’s local government supports the Tuition Equity for DREAMers bills and urges the state legislature to pass A1659/S2355 and A3509/S2479. “A1659/S2355 would allow almost all New Jersey high school graduates access to In-State Tuition rates, regardless of immigration status. A3509/S2479 calls for In-State Tuition rates plus access to state financial aid at New Jersey’s public colleges and universities for anyone with a high school diploma or GED from an educational institution in New Jersey regardless of immigration status.” “We welcome this decision by the Jersey City Council. (More than) 38 percent of the city’s population is foreign-born,” Bea Sabino, chairperson of Anakbayan New Jersey, said. “It is a proud moment for Jersey City.” Jersey City is home to more than 17,000 Filipino Americans, said Lavarro. The state-wide population exceeds 125,000. Almost 40 percent of Jersey City is foreign-born, and the city, sometimes called “America’s Golden Door,” is home to an astonishing 20 percent of New Jersey’s immigrant population, Lavarro further argued. Figures from the New Jersey Dream Act Coalition state that undocumented immigrants make up 8.6 percent of the state’s workforce and paid $446.1 million in state and local taxes in 2010 alone. The coalition also states that if all undocumented immigrants in New Jersey were deported, the state would lose $24.2 billion in economic activity. He said the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Plyer v. Doe, New Jersey is already obligated to provide primary and secondary school education to its children—including DREAMers. Yet higher education is often out of reach because DREAMers’ undocumented status makes them ineligible for state financial aid and requires them to pay prohibitive out-of-state tuition -– as much as double in-state rates -– if they seek to attend public colleges and universities, despite their long-term residency in the United States. Twelve states, including New York, have already enacted tuition equity laws, with five other states considering similar laws. “They have worked hard, earned good grades, and dreamed big dreams. Many of them have known no other home. All they want is the opportunity to continue their education, and give back to their state of New Jersey,” said Lavarro. The resolution now awaits the signature of Mayor Jerramiah Healy. - The FilAm
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