DREAMers SCORE VICTORY FOR TUITION EQUITY AT JERSEY CITY COUNCIL MEETING

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Jersey City, NJ- Supporters of the Tuition Equity for DREAMers bill packed the city hall on February 27 in Jersey City as the council put a resolution in support of Tuition Equity to a vote. A dozen DREAMers and supporters gave powerful testimonials at the public hearing which ended with a unanimous city council vote in favor of the resolution. 

About 75 DREAMers, activists, church leaders and community supporters showed up to rally in front of the Jersey City City Hall on Wednesday evening to demand the council’s approval of resolution “J”, co-authored by Councilman-at-large, Rolando Lavarro, Jr. and Councilwoman Nidia Lopez. They marched around Grove St. chanting, “undocumented, unafraid!” and “Up, up with education! Down, down with deportations!” before lining up to enter the City Hall chambers.

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.

“The community must realize that undocumented or not, every human being has rights to education, a pathway to legitimately contribute to, and benefit from, American society. Tuition Equity in NJ is just a stepping stone in addressing the larger immigration issue in the country. Anakbayan, New Jersey United Students, New Jersey Dream Act Coalition and our allied organizations are taking this step in continuing the fight against the illegalization and criminalization of immigrants. We are demanding an end to modern-day segregation,” said Bea Sabino, Chairperson of Anakbayan New Jersey.

“We welcome this decision by the Jersey City Council. 38.2% of the city’s population is foreign-born. It is clear that Jersey City owes its rich diversity and revitalizing economy to immigrants. The city council recognized that through the hard work of all the DREAMers and supporters who came out to the meeting. It is a proud moment for Jersey City,”Sabino concluded.

Jersey City is the first municipality in all of New Jersey to support Tuition Equity for DREAMers. It now serves as an example to other cities across the state in taking a stand for a person’s right to affordable and quality education, regardless of immigration status.

Anakbayan is calling on Filipino-American youth and the rest of the community to get involved in the NJ Tuition Equity for DREAMers (NJ-TED) campaign now. If you or your organization would like to join the NJ-TED Coalition, please email Anakbayan New Jersey at anakbayan.nynj@gmail.com or Giancarlo Tello, Campaign Manager, at GiancarloT@njdac.org.

Thank you to all participating organizations:  Anakbayan NJ, NJ Dream Act Coalition, NJ United Students, American Friends Service Committee, Action 21, Mujeres Unidas En Accion, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, RAISE, St. Peter’s University Social Justice Program, New Jersey City University Gothic Knights Grassroots, and community at large

UNDOCUMENTED AND UNAFRAID BOOK TOUR

Co-sponsored by Anakbayan New Jersey

 “Undocumented and Unafraid: Tam Tran, Cinthya Felix, and the Immigrant Youth Movement” is a new book was written by and about undocumented immigrant students. The book features the voices of immigrant youth leaders throughout the country who have waged a courageous campaign to secure passage of the federal Dream Act.  It features two leaders of this movement, Tam Tran and Cinthya Felix, who were tragically killed in a car accident in May 2010.  Both were UCLA alumni who went on to prestigious graduate schools and both played a pivotal role in the immigrant youth movement.

The book event will also provide an update on the recent decision by the Obama Administration to stop the deportation of Dream Act eligible students and to grant them work authorization.  This change in policy will potentially impact more than one million immigrant youth, and represents the most significant change in immigration policy in 26 years.  This event will feature leaders of the immigrant youth movement who helped to secure this victory.

The book event will feature UCLA Labor Center director Kent Wong, student authors and editors of the book, and short video clips capturing the spirit and power of the immigrant youth movement.

Community Groups Hold Forum on Deferred Action in Jersey City

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 Photos by Noel Pangilinan

Jersey City, NJ -Filipino youth activist group, Anakbayan New Jersey, joined forces with immigrant and lawyers organizations last August 12 for a “Community Forum on Immigration Reform: Deferred Action” held at the Pope Lecture Hall, Saint Peter’s College in Jersey City.  The said forum provided vital information regarding the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals (DACA) or most commonly known as “Deferred Action.”  It also aimed to empower the Jersey City immigrant community to continue the struggle for comprehensive immigration reform. 

The immigrant community turned out in large numbers to learn about the said new immigration policy.  Anna Brown, head of the Social Justice Program of Saint Peter’s College, gave a warm welcome to the attendees of the forum.  Councilman at-large, Rolando Lavarro, also gave welcoming remarks, commenting on his own experience.  The speakers include DREAM Act activists, Giancarlo Tello and Brenda Aguilar of the New Jersey DREAM Act Coalition (NJDAC), and Filipino lawyer and immigrant rights advocate, Attorney Cristina Godinez. They provided  an overview regarding the said new policy.  The forum also provided free legal consultations to the community headed by lawyers from the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF).

“Deferred Action is simply a stop-gap measure, a band-aid for the overall immigration issue that America faces and is not to be confused with the Dream Act. While the Dream Act is definitely a goal, we should not and will not forget our parents, aunts, and uncles and will continue to push towards ultimately Comprehensive Immigration Reform,” said Giancarlo, core member of the New Jersey DREAM Act Coalition or NJDAC. .

Meanwhile leaders in the Filipino community talked about the need to build a strong immigrant movement. Jonna Baldres, Deputy Secretary General of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON) gave a comprehensive presentation on the socio-economic factors that lead to forced migration.  “We only want to provide for our families but our governments are forcing us to migrate to look for livelihood elsewhere, separating us from our loved ones.  We must come together, stand up and fight against the 1% that exploits us.  It is only just for us to demand respect, dignity, wages, benefits and rights that are rightfully ours and due to us,  until we achieve full legalization for all,” said Ms. Baldres.

According to statistics, an estimated 2 million individuals nationwide and 40,000 in New Jersey can be eligible for deferred action.  “It is important to note, however, that Deferred Action is not so much an achievement of the Obama administration, as it is the product of thousands of Dream Activists and allied organized forces, who continue to put pressure on US lawmakers in order to assert their rights as undocumented youth,” Bea Sabino, Chairperson of AnakBayan New Jersy, added. Community leaders urge the immigrant community to stay informed, be vigilant and organize support for comprehensive immigration reform.

Anakbayan New Jersey called on the Filipino youth to take part in fighting for immigrant rights. “Filipinos are the second largest immigrant community in the United States.  We come from five centuries worth of migration history, which includes notable personalities like Philip Vera Cruz and Carlos Bulosan, who dedicated their lives to fighting for the civil rights of immigrant workers.  Our identity as young Filipinos in America is deeply rooted in that history; hence, we must step up in continuing the struggle against racism, exploitation, illegalization and criminalization of immigrants. At this juncture in US immigration policy, we must always keep in mind that, undocumented or not, every human being has rights to education, fair and just wages, healthcare and the due process of law,” concluded Ms. Sabino.

The Community Forum on Immigration Reform: Deferred Action was organized by Anakbayan New Jersey and was endorsed and co-sponsored by the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON), Philippine Forum-New Jersey, Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE), New Jersey DREAM Act Coalition (NJDAC), Asian-American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), Action 21, and the Saint Peter’s College Social Justice Program.

On August 25, the New Jersey DREAM Act Coalition will be holding a free Deferred Action application drive from 11am to 5pm at the Paul Robeson Campus Center located at 350 Martin Luther King Blvd. Newark, NJ 07102.  For more information please contact NJDAC at info@njdac.org