Governor Christie remains silent about an issue of importance to the immigrant community
Two Dozen faith and student leaders from the New Jersey Tuition Equity for DREAMers Coalition (NJTED) walked into Governor Christie’s Westfield Campaign Office to deliver an open letter asking the Governor support the Tuition Equality Act currently sitting in the New Jersey Legislature. The visit follows months of calls, emails, and letters to Governor Christie, who has yet to share his position on the Tuition Equality Act with the public. Christie’s campaign staff locked faith and student leaders out of the office, after promising to send a campaign representative who never came.
In New Jersey, undocumented youth do not qualify in-state tuition rate or state financial aid, a policy which effectively bars thousands of talented students from pursue higher education. The Tuition Equality Act would go a long way in expanding access to higher education for immigrant youth by allowing all students who attended high school in New Jersey for at least three years, and graduated from a New Jersey High School or GED program, to qualify for in-state tuition rates.
Two dozen faith and student leaders crammed into the office spoke to a staffer who summarily refused to listen to their concerns. Two DREAMers, Giancarlo Tello, a Rutgers University-Newark student, and Miriam Zamudio, a student at Essex County College, handed a copy of the letter to a campaign staffer and tried to explain the impact the NJ Tuition Equality Act would have on their lives.
“We are still looking for and demanding an answer and his support on a common sense issue that’ll help New Jersey, its students, and its economy,” said Miriam Zamudio. “New Jersey has the fifth-highest number of undocumented people in the country. We need to know where Governor Christie stand - Is he with the Latino and Immigrant community on this issue or not?”
The campaign staffer told the students to leave the office and wait to be attended outside. Faith and student leaders agreed and congregated in the parking lot, waiting for the opportunity to share stories with Christie’s campaign staff. With no sign of progress, a couple of DREAMers accompanied by Sister Ruth, from the Diocese of Metuchen - Immaculate Conception Parish in Somerville, went back into the office to ask for an update. They were again told to wait outside, for a campaign director who was allegedly coming to speak with coalition representatives.
As students waited patiently to share their experiences and concerns, the campaign staffer locked the office door. Students were left with no staffer to talk to and no respect shown.
“I have been witness to how we have not even been given an opportunity to dialogue,” said Sister Ruth from Immaculate Conception Parish in Somerville from the Diocese of Metuchen to the disappointed crowd of DREAMers and student leaders. "In the next couple of weeks, I will be praying for the governor to open his heart, and his campaign office doors to the young people in our community who are denied the opportunity to attend university."
Fortunately, this will not be the last the Christie campaign will see and hear from the members of this coalition. Over the next two weeks, multiple actions will occur across the state, demanding that Governor Christie speaks out in favor of tuition equity for undocumented immigrants. He would be supporting bills that have been publicly supported by most Presidents of NJ state colleges and universities. He would be supporting bills that the Office of Legislative Services said would have no negative financial impact on the state.
We look forward to more actions in the next two weeks, asking Governor Christie to lead on this issue.