Dear state legislator:
I write to express my support, and urge your endorsement of bills A3509/S2479 allowing foreign-born students who have been raised and attended a high school in New Jersey and lack immigration status, but have graduated or received a GED certificate, to qualify for in-state/resident tuition rates at New Jersey’s public institutions of higher education. In addition, this legislation would also open access to financial aid to income-qualified students who are deemed to be legally present by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, but have not yet been able to obtain permanent resident status.
Passage of these bills is of paramount importance at this time when Congress has finally undertaken the task of fixing our broken immigration system. The immigration law reforms under consideration will grant legal presence to many of the approximately 500,000 New Jersey residents in irregular status in our midst. Many of these are young people who have grown up and been raised as American, and are among the brightest and highest achievers in our schools. Completion of at least two years of post-secondary education is likely to be a key requirement for obtaining permanent resident status and eventual citizenship. Therefore it is a matter of basic fairness as well as in the best interest of New Jersey's economic and social wellbeing not to continue to place insurmountable obstacles on the path of the advancement and incorporation of young immigrants.
New Jersey is home to the fifth-largest population of unauthorized immigrants in the country representing over 6% of the total state population. One of every 12 workers in New Jersey is unauthorized and collectively they pay in excess of $400 million in taxes.
The proposed policies are not new; fourteen states already extend tuition equity to these students. We should not continue to ignore the thousands of immigrant students who drop out of high school every year because, for them, the goal of a college education has been made unattainable. Let's not deny immigrant youth the same opportunities as their peers because of a legal predicament they had no control over. New Jersey needs more college-educated young people to gain a competitive edge, nationally and globally.
I stand with the immigrant youth in New Jersey, and ask you to sponsor bills A3509/S2479.