JERSEY CITY, NJ — A youth-led movement called Anakbayan, lauded the passage of the In-State Tuition Law signed by Governor Chris Christie on
December 20 as a major milestone for grassroots community organizing in New Jersey. Under the law, undocumented youth who have attended at least three years of high school in New Jersey, now qualify for in-state tuition rates at institutions of public higher education.
New Jersey joins 15 other states with similar policies.
Governor Christie, however, struck down provisions for state financial aid following a compromise reached with Democratic legislators. The governor was concerned that such provisions would turn New Jersey into a “magnet state”, and that access to these programs was an overreach and harmful to the state economy.
Anakbayan found Christie’s argument without basis saying that financial aid to undocumented immigrant students would make up less than 1 percent of state aid, with less than a thousand students per year estimated to qualify after completing the FAFSA application and meeting income standards. The youth-led group added that states with similar laws like New Mexico, California and Texas already offer access to state aid and have not experienced negative economic consequences.
Altough, Anakbayan says the new law is a partial version of the NJ Dream Act, it considers its successful campaign for In-State Tuition as an 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 communites,” Anabayan said.
Anakbayan partnered with a coalition of NJ Tuition Equity for DREAMers (NJTED) which included New Jersey United Students (NJUS) and Wind of the Spirit (WOTS) following President Obama’s announcement of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to build grassroots movement of youth, community, faith-based and labor groups and to engage state and local municipal council legislators to their cause.
In Jersey City, it worked closely with then-Councilman-at-large [now Council President] Rolando Lavarro Jr. and community allies to bring forth the first municipal resolution endorsing the call for tuition equality in New Jersey.
According to Anakbayan, New Jersey has a growing population of 125,000 Filipinos and is the fifth largest population of Filipinos in the nation. Jersey City is home to the second highest concentration of Filipinos in the state.
The group says the In-State Tuition law is a stepping stone towards progress. The next step is to ensure its implementation 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 udocumented students,” Anakbayan said.
It also re-affirmed its commitment to to the broader cause for genuine comprehensive reform in the U.S., which Anakbayan said “must include an end to deportation, family separation, and institutionalized discrimination against all immigrants.”