(Trenton) – Today, the New Jersey Democratic State Committee Vice Chair, Lizette Delgado-Polanco called for equal educational opportunity in the state. Addressing the Senate Budget Committee, she urged swift passage of S. 2479, legislation similar to the one known nationally as the DREAM Act, which allows young New Jerseyans in the state school system to access the same college education opportunities as their classmates regardless of immigration status.
For thousands of New Jersey students aspiring to the American dream, a dream of a higher education delayed is a dream denied. Undocumented immigrant students, despite remaining academically competitive and contributing to the tax base, are precluded from receiving in-state college tuition or from applying for state financial aid. For the students subject to this inequity, a college degree becomes cost-prohibitive.
The highest ranking female in the state Democratic Party organization, Delgado-Polanco also serves as Executive Director of the SEIU New Jersey State Council. "Now is the time to remove roadblocks that stand in the path of young men and women who want to better themselves, their families, their state and their country. Capable students should not be stopped from achieving their dreams," said Delgado-Polanco, who is of Dominican heritage, and the first in her family to be born in the United States. "The state has already invested in these student's primary schooling. If the state can find $24 million for an unnecessary, low-turnout special election then surely it can allow promising students to receive in-state tuition rates and to apply for financial aid."
Governor Christie's position on tuition equality for undocumented New Jerseyans has been inconsistent. Or, arguably, he has been consistent in taking both sides of this issue, among others. Christie opposed the federal DREAM Act and initially pledged to veto its state equivalent saying that he doesn’t believe in subsidizing the education of DREAMers with taxpayer money. Last month, however, as the election approached, he switched his position, promising, “We will get it done in the lame duck.” Calling it a "moral requirement" to provide every child the opportunity to reach their God-given potential, he also said politicians, like himself, should be "held to account for our deeds, not just our words."
The legislation, S. 2479, provides tuition equality at public colleges and universities and access to state aid for qualified undocumented students whose parents brought them to the United States illegally as children. Undocumented students must have attended at least three years of high school and received a diploma in New Jersey, and they must vow to seek legalization once they have that opportunity.
Mayors representing more than one million New Jersey residents also endorsed the legislation, because it will help create the diverse, highly skilled workforce needed to "win the future."