Filipino- American Youth Celebrate Historic Community Victory for New Jersey DREAMers
Anakbayan Calls to Unite and Strengthen the Movement for Immigrant Rights in the U.S.
For Immediate Release
December 31, 2013
Anakbayan New Jersey commends the passage of the In-State Tuition Bill, which was signed into law by Governor Chris Christie on Friday, December 20. Through the sustained efforts of a youth-led movement, New Jersey now joins 18 other states with similar policies, marking a major milestone for grassroots community organizing in the state.
Effective immediately, undocumented youth who have attended at least 3 years of high school in New Jersey now qualify for in-state tuition rates at institutions of public higher education. Commonly referred to as the NJ DREAM Act, the bill had initially opened tuition assistance programs like Tuition Aid Grants (TAG) to undocumented students.
However, the Governor struck provisions for state financial aid following a compromise reached with Democratic legislators. Christie expressed misplaced concerns that such provisions would turn NJ into a “magnet state,” and that access to these programs was an overreach and harmful to the state economy.
These arguments are untrue because financial aid to undocumented immigrant students would make up less than 1% of state aid, with less than 1000 students per year estimated to qualify after completing the FAFSA application and meeting income standards. Moreover, states with similar laws like New Mexico, California and Texas already offer access to state aid and have not experienced negative economic consequences.
Up From the Grassroots
Though only a partial version of the NJ DREAM Act, the successful campaign for In-State Tuition is a historic victory for Filipino youth and other immigrant communities. It is the culmination of more than a decade of community organizing and lobbying. It is a glimpse of what the future can hold for strong, united and organized communities.
Last year, the NJ DREAM Act Coalition (NJDAC), a product of the initial push for tuition equality from 2009, partnered up with New Jersey United Students (NJUS), Anakbayan NJ (AB-NJ) and Wind of the Spirit (WOTS) to build a coalition to revive the campaign following President Obama’s announcement of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program.
By building a grassroots movement of youth, community, faith-based and labor groups, reinforced with engaging with state legislators through lobbying visits, the NJ Tuition Equity for DREAMers (NJTED) campaign demonstrated the power of collective action in challenging unjust and discriminatory policies in the face of legislative bureaucracy and partisan bickering.
Filipino Americans- Cultivating a Culture of Solidarity
Filipinos in NJ had much at stake in this issue. An estimated one in every six Filipinos in the United States is undocumented. With a growing population of 125,000 Filipinos, New Jersey has the fifth largest population of Filipinos in the nation.
Filipino-Americans played a significant role in this year’s fight for the NJ DREAM Act, especially in Jersey City, which is home to the second highest concentration of Filipinos in the state. On February 27, Anakbayan NJ worked closely with then-Councilman-at-Large [now, Council President] Rolando Lavarro Jr. and community allies to bring forth what had been the first municipal resolution endorsing the call for tuition equality in NJ.
Pursuing the legacy of solidarity work from exemplary Filipino-American activists such as Larry Itliong and Philip Vera Cruz, Fil-Am youth leaders helped coordinate and organize local and statewide actions that featured the re-emerging immigrant rights movement in NJ. The “NJ DREAM Act Week of Action” in May and “Share the DREAM Rally” in November brought together groups and individuals from diverse backgrounds, united in the mission to uplift immigrant communities from the injustices caused by racism and discrimination.
The In-State Tuition law is a stepping stone towards further progress. Anakbayan NJ and the rest of NJTED coalition remain dedicated to genuine tuition equality and will continue fighting for a complete NJ DREAM Act, which includes the crucial piece of providing access to state financial aid to already distressed undocumented youth and their families.
The next immediate step is ensuring implementation of the law. In time for the spring semester, public colleges and universities must be guided, and held accountable, in the transitional process of adjusting tuition policies for undocumented students.
Resolution: Organize and Fight to End Modern-Day Segregation
AB-NJ also reaffirms its commitment to the broader cause for genuine comprehensive immigration reform in the United States, which must include an end to deportations, family separation, and institutionalized discrimination against all immigrants, while also addressing the root causes of migration.
This New Year, Anakbayan NJ calls on Filipino youth, especially DREAMers, to resolve to be part of this generation’s continuation of the civil rights movement. History has shown that those who dare to come out of the shadows are the ones who stand a chance at overcoming oppression.
Our identity as Fil-Ams takes root in five centuries worth of immigration history and community activism. Become a member or supporter of Anakbayan today! Email Yves Nibungco, Secretary General of Anakbayan NJ, at firstname.lastname@example.org with “AB NJ Membership” on the subject line.
Higher Education For All!
No Human Being is Illegal!
Fight for Genuine Comprehensive Immigration Reform!!
Dare to struggle! Dare to win!
Makibaka! Huwag Matakot! (Fight! Do not fear!) ###