Campaign Action

Dreamers in New Jersey have scored a huge victory after Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy signed the New Jersey Dream Act, legislation expanding access to state financial aid for hundreds of immigrant youth. “Let’s be clear about one thing,” Murphy said at the signing, which took place at the diverse Rutgers University campus. “Our DREAMers are just as much New Jerseyans as my and Tammy’s four kids”:

Maria Del Cielo Mendez, a senior at Union County Magnet High School in Scotch Plains who came to the United States from Mexico when she was 3, said that before Wednesday she wasn’t sure she would be able to attend college.

“Even though I have always been at the top of my class, college has always felt out of reach. Today, that changes,” she said. ”Today I know that I’ll be going to college alongside my classmates.”

“We may not have won a Dream Act at the federal level,” she continued, “but our organizing has pushed our state to stand up and have our backs. Dreamers like me made thousands of phone calls, held community meetings in high schools and colleges across the state and spent our free time poring over legislation.”

Because of the work of activists like Maria and Murphy’s signature, New Jersey is the 10th state in the nation to extend financial aid to undocumented immigrant youth, and in the face of congressional inaction on the DREAM Act, these kinds of state-level actions are a blueprint for the nation. In neighboring New York, immigrant rights advocates have kept up the pressure on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to act on protections like driver’s licenses and the New York Dream Act.

“From day one, Gov. Murphy has promised to have the backs of Dreamers,” tweeted immigrant rights group Make The Road New Jersey. “As the federal government tries to detain and deport us, we couldn’t be more thrilled to stand with you today as you signed state financial aid for Dreamers into law, opening the doors to higher education for hundreds.” 

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