New National Report Highlights Need for New Jersey to Act on Inclusive Immigration Policies

New National Report Highlights Need for New Jersey to Act on Inclusive Immigration Policies

Lawmakers should advance driver’s licenses for all and access to financial aid for DREAMers

Erika NavaAs an important port of entry for a diverse group of immigrants from all over the world, New Jersey stands to benefit greatly from more inclusive state immigration policies. The Garden State, after all, has the third-highest percentage of foreign-born residents of all the states and one of the largest undocumented immigrant populations – an undocumented population that already contributes heavily to the state’s economy and pays over $600 million in state and local taxes each year.

As a national report released today by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities notes, states can produce a more educated workforce and increase safety while adding to the economic prosperity of the state by moving forward on key pragmatic immigration policies, including:

● Allowing unauthorized immigrants to pay in-state tuition at public colleges and universities and to access financial aid, which over time would boost the skills and wages of the state workforce.

● Giving unauthorized immigrants access to driver’s licenses, which would improve public safety, boost state economies and increase the well being of many families.

Here in New Jersey, state lawmakers have taken an important first step on tuition equity, having extended in-state rates to undocumented high school graduates in 2013. But NJPP’s earlier report found that college remains out of reach for many of these students and their families without access to state financial aid. Access to aid was part of the tuition equity legislation initially passed, but conditionally vetoed by Gov. Christie. Lawmakers have introduced bills to restore this provision; they ought to move them in the lame-duck session to make aid available in the upcoming spring semester.

Legislators are also considering a bill to allow all residents the opportunity to drive legally. In recent months, the momentum towards this common-sense policy has been building, with cities, counties and other governments and leaders around the state urging the state to act. Now it’s time for the legislature to do so – lawmakers should work on passing Assemblywoman Quijano’s revised bill after next week’s elections, so it can get to the governor’s desk before the legislative session ends.

States with pragmatic, inclusive policies towards immigrants help their economies while improving the livelihood of all families. As lawmakers return from their break, it is essential they take action on these common-sense policies to put immigrants on a path to better opportunities.