A new Democratic bill working its way through the New Jersey Legislature would allow children of illegal immigrants to apply for in-state tuition rates and for financial aid. The bill, The Senate bill, sponsored by Senators Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex) and Sandra Cunningham (D-Hudson would make it easier for qualified children of illegal immigrants who have lived in the state for one year at least and who were born in the US to qualify for in-state tuition rates and for financial aid.
Under current laws, children of undocumented immigrants who are born in the US are US citizens and are therefore qualified for financial aid and other benefits. Even long-term residents of New Jersey who are not citizens qualify for some benefits that would make college more affordable. However, if the college-bound children live at home and are under the age of 24, they need to prove their residence. In order to do this, they need to have their parents provide the state with government documents – such as a driver’s license. In cases where the parents are undocumented immigrants, the parents cannot provide the children with these documents, making college far more expensive for the children.
Since college has become so expensive and since the children are born in the US and do qualify for financial aid and for resident tuition rates, some legislators feel that more needs to be done to help the children out of an unjust and difficult situation.
In May, a companion bill was passed by a Senate committee. Other states have passed laws which allow some undocumented immigrants brought into the US as children to get in-state tuition rates.
There are other indications that more is being done to help children of undocumented immigrants. President Obama has supported but has not been able to pass the DREAM Act, which would have given children of undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship. He has created an executive order which will allow children of undocumented immigrants to enjoy years of legal status and a right to work in the US.
According to authorities at Rutgers, the legislation in New Jersey could help thousands of children enjoy a college education. Currently, it is not known how many children could be affected as many children of undocumented immigrants do not come forward seeking financial aid or in-state tuition rates because they fear that their parents’ status in the US will be affected.