On January 19th, Democratic Governor Jon Corzine will be leaving office and potentially leaving behind a new bill that allows illegal immigrants rights to in-state tuition prices. Today, this bill, approved by the New Jersey Assembly based on a 7-4 vote, will be going before both houses, and if passed, it would come alongside several other states, including California, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and Washington who have sanctioned similar laws.
The idea that undocumented individuals would be granted privileges such as in-state tuition has become widely argued amongst Republicans and Democrats, and the race to vote despite several delays comes right on the cusp of Republican Governor-elect Christopher Christie’s inauguration, who opposes the bill.
Opponents of the bill claim that illegal immigrants should not have the same entitlements as legal citizens and are concerned with legislation that would provide financial measures for lawbreakers and pose a burden on the state’s education system during a season of economic difficulty.
Republican New Jersey Assemblyman Samuel Thompson said, “the bill discriminates against U.S. citizens who attend New Jersey colleges but don’t live in the state.” Others feel that this bill will “improve illegal immigrant access to education when their illegal status prohibits them from giving back to the state in a meaningful way.” (Spodak, CNN)
Assemblyman Rick Merkt, Republican, one of the four who voted against the proposal stated, “My colleagues need to realize that New Jersey is broke before voting at the last minute to grant another giveaway that legal and hard-working families cannot afford to provide,” and said, “This proposal is disrespectful to those families who play by the rules but just squeak by sending their children to college with hopes of a better future.” (Harper, PressofAC)
Democrats and supporters of the bill are praising the idea, anticipating these young illegal students as future resources for the state and are hoping today’s vote will be the catalyst for more prioritized immigration reform.
Currently, per the 1982 U.S. Supreme Court decision, illegal immigrants are guaranteed an education up through high school, and if these students continue on to college, they must pay out-of-state tuition rates, which can be double the rates of in-state tuition. Additionally, they are prohibited to apply for any grants and/or loans. (Harper, PressofAC)
If the bill is passed, undocumented high school graduates will be eligible for benefits under the following criteria:
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