May 16, 2018

DACA Clash May Go to Supreme Court; Locals Welcome Aid for Dreamers

By Donald Gilpin

Last week Governor Phil Murphy signed legislation into law that will grant access to state aid at public and private colleges and universities for New Jersey DREAMers. Qualified students will be permitted to apply for aid starting in the fall 2018 semester, making New Jersey the 10th state in the country to offer state financial aid to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and undocumented students.

“When policies at the federal level have purposely and systematically excluded immigrants in our communities, New Jersey stands up,” said Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund Executive Director Adriana Abizadeh. “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.”

This welcomed news from Trenton for immigrant youth comes amidst ongoing debate and continued lack of resolution nationally on immigration law and the fate of the DACA program. The Trump administration decision last September to phase out DACA caused widespread protests, much conflict, and unproductive efforts by Congress to salvage it.

Federal judges in California, New York, and the District of Columbia have ruled that the Trump administration must continue DACA, which was created in 2012 and has provided work permits and
protection from deportation for about 800,000 young people who came to the U.S. as children.

A lawsuit filed last week by Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina, and West Virginia, however, seeks to shut down DACA. The legal clash is likely to require the Supreme Court to take up the issue and render a ruling on the future of the DACA program.

The signing of the higher education aid bill comes after an effort of more than five years by New Jersey DREAMers with the support of LALDEF and other community organizations, and it 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 in-state tuition rates. In 2013 Governor Chris Christie vetoed the part of the bill that would have given DREAMers access to state financial aid.

LALDEF will be holding its annual stakeholders meeting next Wednesday, May 23 from 5-7 p.m. at the Nassau Presbyterian Church in Princeton. “To help restore American values of justice and inclusiveness is why I joined LALDEF. That is also the reason I invite you to attend our second stakeholders meeting,” said Patricia Fernandez-Kelly, LALDEF board chair and Princeton University sociology professor.

The meeting will include members and volunteers describing their work on behalf of immigrants, as well as testimonies of Latinos and Latinas who have benefited from the services LALDEF provides. “Capture the spirit of struggle and hope that has always been part of the American Dream, and partake of a delicious meal prepared by immigrant hands. It will be a joyful event meant to inform and inspire,” invitations to the event urge.

Fernandez-Kelly went on to describe the challenges for some immigrant families. “Mothers yanked away from sons and daughters after decades of law-abiding lives in the U.S.; frightened youngsters stranded in foster care; modest workers in search of opportunity but targeted as criminals. Congress willing to sacrifice vulnerable immigrants at the altar of political expediency. A whole generation of undocumented children growing up under fears of deportation. This is not the America you and I believe in.”

In this week’s Town Topics Mailbox, a DACA recipient writes about her experience in this country, problems with immigration law, and the need for resolution. The writer of the letter came to the U. S. to Princeton when she was 10 years old with her mother and two younger brothers. More than 20 years later, the family’s immigration issues remain unresolved, she writes, and, last month, “Both of my brothers were raided by ICE and taken away from us. Without a permanent solution, I run the risk of having a similar fate, and that is extremely frightening.”