New Jersey’s statewide immigration coalition calls for a values-focused approach to welcoming new arrivals and expanding services for communities who call the state home.

Trenton, NJ [January 09, 2024] -- Following today’s State of the State Address, NJAIJ calls for the Governor’s Administration and State legislature to refocus efforts on public policies that protect and empower immigrants and communities of Color. NJAIJ also calls on State political leadership to rebuke and condemn the rise in anti-immigrant rhetoric that plagued the state over the last year, from Edison to Plainfield to Atlantic County.

It is impossible to give an accurate view of New Jersey without mentioning that our state is a state of immigrants. New Jersey is one of the most diverse states in the nation. Our state population is effectively half people of Color and nearly 1 in 4 New Jerseyans is an immigrant. Yet despite the last legislative session culminating in wins for immigrants, in New Jersey, reported hate crimes have more than tripled in the last few years, rising from 267 reported incidents in 2020 to 726 in 2022.

NJAIJ was pleased to hear the Governor’s commitment to addressing medical debt, expanding voting rights and protections, as well as support for workers. But although Trenton lawmakers and the Governor have acted affirmatively on state values to support language access, protections for immigrant workers, legal services, and defending the state’s immigration detention ban, it’s clear that it will take far more than public policy to defend New Jersey’s diverse communities from the rise in anti-immigrant sentiments and attack. Though the Governor rebuked the “resurgent, radical, right-wing agenda that is hellbent on coming after our fundamental rights,” the most recent attacks on immigrants went unaddressed.

Last month, the Mayor of Edison said immigrants transferring through NJ Transit were unwelcome in his city and falsely suggested that families seeking safety and freedom could be carrying weapons. The statement on its own was met with repulsion by many leaders across the state, but many in the immigrant rights community also pointed to preceding hate-fueled remarks this summer when a local official in Plainfield threatened to call ICE on protestors and again when Atlantic County Commissioners passed a resolution calling on lawmakers to rescind New Jersey’s Sanctuary State status. Threats are increasing, from community workers who support asylum seekers to advocacy groups helping Muslim New Jerseyans track and report a rise in bias and violence incidents. To ignore the rising hate faced by a growing number of New Jerseyans is to ignore one of the biggest and most dangerous problems facing the state.

“The state of the state is sadly one where not every New Jerseyan feels that their home here is inclusive or can offer the ‘fair shot’ that Governor Murphy said was available to his own parents,said Amy Torres, Executive Director with New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice. “The anti-immigrant and racist rhetoric that has been a mainstay of our local and state headlines over the last year must be firmly and frequently rebuked, especially by our State’s top leaders. Our communities need to hear that the vast majority of New Jerseyans, from the most powerful office in the state all the way down to the community services office on their block, have their back in the fight against racism.”

NJAIJ applauds the governor for naming the important policy changes the State has already implemented, as well as committing to additional social and racial justice priorities. Though immigration advocates feel today’s address was insufficient in addressing and shutting down the rising tide of xenophobia and white nationalism, today’s address marks only the beginning of the legislative session and 2025 budget cycle. NJAIJ looks forward to spending the coming weeks working in coalition with our members, incoming members of the legislature, and the Governor to ensure the services and policies that allow our communities to feel that New Jersey is truly a “safe, secure, and inclusive” place for them too.

New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice (NJAIJ) is the state’s largest immigration coalition. NJAIJ uses the power and strength of 50+ member organizations to fight for policies that empower and protect immigrants.