Two bills aimed at lowering college costs for children of illegal immigrants is making headway in New Jersey, immigration attorneys report. The state Assembly is set to vote on a bill that would allow illegal immigrants and their children to pay in-state tuition rates at New Jersey colleges and universities. Immigration lawyers in New Jersey say that the language of the bills will have a lasting impact on education and immigration in the state.
The first bill, co-sponsored by Sean Connors, Hudson County Democrats Assemblyman, Anjelica Jimenez and Ruben Ramos, would allow students who are also citizens of the United States to attend college with in-state tuition rates, whether their parents are illegal immigrants or not. The second bill would extend the in-state tuition rates to New Jersey residents, even if they still qualify as illegal immigrants. According to immigration attorneys in New Jersey, the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition could mean the difference between whether the child of an immigrant goes to college after high school, or immediately joins the work force.
Entitled the “Tuition Equality Act,” the first bill was approved by the state Assembly Budget Committee after a drawn-out hearing in Trenton. The legislation is now pending approval in the full Assembly. Supporters of the bill say that it is unfair to expect the children of immigrants to pay for their out-of-state tuition, especially those who have lived and worked in New Jersey for several years. Children should not be held responsible for the decisions of their parents, and those whose parents have not achieved American citizenship should still be granted the chance to get a college education.
As of last month, both bills have passed the Assembly Budget committee and moved on to the full body for a vote. However, Governor Christie may prove to be the final holdup—in 2011, Christie made clear his opposition to bills that were aimed at giving cheaper college tuition to illegal immigrants. Under the current laws in New Jersey, children born to illegal immigrants living in the United States can attend public schools from kindergarten through twelfth grade, and can apply for education at New Jersey colleges and universities.
Currently, New Jersey tuition bills have risen so much that in-state college undergraduates paid a little more than $13,000 for the 2012-2013 school year, while out-of-state undergraduates paid $26,393 for tuition and annual fees. Supporters of the new bills have relied on testimony from immigrant students to drive the point home. Several Morris County students could, according to a recent survey, attend county college if they were able to pay the in-state tuition. The new legislation, A-4225, would allow United States students to qualify for in-state tuition rates if they attended New Jersey state high schools for three years or more and graduated. Under President Obama’s deferred action plan, some immigrant children have been granted deferred action status, but must also follow the out-of-state tuition rates.
The experienced immigration attorneys at New Jersey based law firm Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, PA, offer legal consultation and representation to any illegally immigrated family who needs to secure education for their children under state laws.