Press Release: Immigrants Rights and Advocacy Organizations Slam Decision to Raid Excluded New Jerseyans Fund

Community leaders, organizations, and advocates react to the inauguration day news that $34 million would be taken from the already-underfunded program that was meant for New Jerseyans excluded from federal pandemic relief

When: Wednesday, January 19th, 2022 12:00 PM

What: Today, 15 speakers from a broad-based coalition of community leaders, organizations, and advocates convened a virtual press conference condemning the news that $34 million of relief funds promised to New Jerseyans excluded from federal relief would be reappropriated for other agency expenses at the New Jersey Department of Human Services.

The news was first reported by Karen Yi for Gothamist, the evening of Governor Murphy’s inauguration.


Community leaders, organizations, and advocates react to the inauguration day news that $34 million would be taken from the already-underfunded program that was meant for New Jerseyans excluded from federal pandemic relief


Press Contact: 

Amy Torres, [email protected] (551) 200 3535

Sara Cullinane, [email protected] (908) 768-4991

Rafael Chavez Santiago, [email protected]g (908) 344-7578

Jorge Torres [email protected] (203) 278-2729 

Maru Lanao [email protected]  (551) 482-1381 (English, Spanish) 

Spanish-speaking press contacts available upon request

When: Wednesday, January 19th, 2022 12:00 PM

What: Today, 15 speakers from a broad-based coalition of community leaders, organizations, and advocates convened a virtual press conference condemning the news that $34 million of relief funds promised to New Jerseyans excluded from federal relief would be reappropriated for other agency expenses at the New Jersey Department of Human Services.

The news was first reported by Karen Yi for Gothamist, the evening of Governor Murphy’s inauguration.

“In December I started my application, and I received a letter shortly after informing me that I wasn’t eligible to receive anything from the fund,” said Angela, a member of Unidad Latina en Acción. “At the end of December, I received an email that said I was eligible, and informed me of what documents I needed to produce – letters of proof of employment, proof of address, and other notarized documents. I started receiving messages every day about my application, saying that I was still missing documents. Last Thursday, I got a final notice that requested proof of residency and a signed letter from my landlord. I sent everything in, and finally received notice that my application had been approved. But then I received a link to enter all my information again, and I did. Yet, I still haven’t received any direct deposit like I registered for. Really, I was ready to just give up because they asked for so many different kinds of documents over and over again. Even though I got the notice saying that my application was approved, I still don’t know whether I’ll actually receive any of those funds. Hopefully I will. But I was ready to quit– and just like me, there are so many people who, when they see that the application asks for so many different official documents, they ask– for what? Why should I find all this information, all these documents that are difficult to get ahold of, if I don’t even know if it’ll be accepted?

On Wednesday, members of a broad-based coalition of community members, organizations, and advocates responded to the Governor’s office’s claim that there were not enough applications to justify continued maintenance of the fund. New Jersey’s original $40 million program paled in comparison to neighboring New York’s $2.1 billion fund. Speakers outlined the many hurdles that advocates fear were intentionally designed to set the program up for failure and renewed their demand for an investment of $1 billion to provide direct relief and unemployment benefits.

“I’m an immigrant essential worker. My work making food saved lives during the worst months of the pandemic but when I became sick with COVID at my workplace and was unable to work, I didn’t receive a penny in unemployment or stimulus payment despite paying taxes for 25 years. That’s why I joined a hunger strike to win the first Excluded New Jerseyan Fund. I applied to the Excluded New Jerseyan Fund but I still haven’t been accepted. It’s been months of going back and forth on documentation. My son and I desperately need support and so do hundreds of thousands of people across our state. We demand Governor Murphy and the legislature to take action now to fully fund the program,” said Felix Gallardo, member of Make the Road New Jersey and one of 34 immigrant hunger strikers.

“I feel very bad about this news that we have just been given, they have cut off economic relief for immigrant families in New Jersey. Once again they exclude us, they have left us out of the help that the Governor promised before and during his re-election campaign for our immigrant community,” said Tiburcio Cuautle, a member of Cosecha New Jersey. “Once again, the politicians and the governor play their tricks and deceive us. We are essential workers but they treat us as disposable. They have sabotaged this economic relief process from the beginning so that it fails. It's not fair, it's a mockery to my working community! Economic justice now!”

“$16 million dollars of relief is an insult to our communities. The pandemic has not ended, in fact, it continues to claim the lives of our friends, families and loved ones every day. The governor promised $40 million in funding, and his word must be worth something. It is shameful and a stain on the Murphy administration to continue to deny recovery for all,” said Itzel Hernandez, Immigrant Rights Organizer for the American Friends Service Committee.

"We are disappointed and feel deceived by our state and Governor Murphy.  It was a long struggle just to get the fund going for New Jersey workers excluded from federal economic relief support. The pandemic has left us economically and mentally destabilized.  To say that the $40 million that was set aside for excluded workers would be largely taken away is an insult and lack of respect for workers who are STILL EXCLUDED almost two years into the pandemic. We call on the Governor to return ALL of the funds to the Excluded New Jerseyan Fund for excluded New Jersey workers, an improved and streamlined application system, and funding streams for organizations that value the important work of outreach and follow up," said Reynalda Cruz, Organizer with New Labor. 

“Our communities were already excluded, and continued to be excluded, despite the fund. The amount of documents required was a lack of understanding and compassion for our immigrant workers. Much of our community does not know how to use a computer, how to fill out the application, nor upload documents. These are major barriers for our community to be able to apply. Those who need help the most were excluded due to these barriers. Nevertheless, we encourage our immigrant community, our essential workers, to not be intimidated by these requirements and make sure to continue to apply,” said Diana Mejia with Wind of the Spirit Immigrant Resource Center.

"It is extremely disheartening and infuriating to read a headline which, on the one hand, promised funds to those people excluded from stimulus checks - undocumented families and people returning from the criminal (in)justice system -  and unemployment, and on the other hand read that it was just that, a headline or political grandstanding where words and actions do not align.  It makes absolutely no sense to make an application process so complicated so as to discourage those in need from gaining access to relief funds.  Sure, the government will say the provisions are to make sure the funds go in the hands of the worthy, of course this I say while averting my eyes from the many 'passes' which are given to the affluent in the form of tax advantages and preferential treatment often granted with a handshake and a wink, but to punish the 'least of these (Matthew 25)’ with excess documentation and standards which make the process impossible to complete fits well within many governmental "relief" programs.  Of course, as if planned from the beginning, the funds head right back into the pockets of those who promised them and their agencies and projects. Following Christ's example, generosity should be gratuitous and flow from the bottom up to those most in need and not the other way around,” said Rev. Carmine Pernini with Zion Lutheran Evangelical Church in Rahway, NJ and Faith in New Jersey Board Member.

Beyond the flaws built into the Excluded New Jerseyan Fund’s application process, the coalition had been raising the alarm on the low ceiling of funds for eligible households and excluded individuals. In neighboring New York, applicants for a similar excluded worker fund were eligible for up to $15,600 per person but New Jersey initially only offered one-time payments $1,000 per person, and then, in response to advocate pressure, raised the cap to $2,000 per person with a maximum household cap of $4,000. 

In response to the news about the fund’s raid, coalition members sent a letter to the Governor highlighting their demands for additional promotion and outreach of the program and the need for $1 billion in aid. Earlier that day in his inauguration address, the Governor pledged to deliver an “American dream working for everyone.”

“It’s no secret that New Jersey’s immigrant families were among the hardest hit by the pandemic,”said Nicole Rodriguez, Research Director at New Jersey Policy Perspective (NJPP). “Providing pandemic relief to these families is not only the moral thing to do, but the best policy decision a state can make. Immigrants are an integral part of New Jersey’s vibrant communities and local economies. Simply put, when immigrants do better we all do better — and New Jersey’s pandemic response should reflect that reality.”

“From the first day that the Trump administration’s federal stimulus checks excluded our communities, we advocated for a robust State response that would fill the gap and provide the relief our communities deserve. Immigrants and people of color were disproportionately affected by the pandemic because of deep structural inequities that deny our communities access and protection,”said Amy Torres with the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice. “The refusal to seriously meet the demands of this coalition, even when we’ve remained at the table in good faith since the start of the Excluded New Jerseyans Fund, is an insult to our communities and perpetuates the same harmful inequities that wrought these harms in the first place. We stand in strong solidarity with this coalition to demand $1 billion in aid and to integrate the community’s feedback on application improvements that will make this fund truly accessible to everyone who is eligible for it.”

“We campaigned tirelessly for all those excluded from the federal stimulus to receive this assistance.  Unfortunately, the application process was not only difficult, but impossible to access by our non-English speakers. We encourage the Governor’s office to reinstate these funds, fully fund the program, and ensure the systems in place are effective and user-friendly to our members,” said Kevin Brown, Executive Vice President and NJ State Director of 32BJ.

The coalition calls on Governor Murphy to fully fund Excluded New Jerseyans and deliver a program that secures real relief for excluded community members.

The coalition of organizations pushing for relief includes: ACLU of New Jersey, American Friends Service Committee, Casa Freehold, CATA, Cosecha, Faith in New Jersey, Laundry Workers Center, Latino Action Network, Make the Road New Jersey, National Day Laborer Organizing Network, National Domestic Workers Alliance, New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice, New Jersey Citizen Action, New Jersey Policy Perspective, New Labor, SEIU 32BJ, Unidad Latina en Accion NJ and Wind of the Spirit Immigrant Resource Center.


New Year, New Team, New Session | Same Fight for Justice

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January Newsletter

Archived 2017 picture of NJAIJ rally against the Muslim Ban.

Friends, I'm writing with a personal message this month.
January marks one year since I joined NJAIJ and one year since we grew our team to include our Movement Building Coordinator, a role that has transformed how we empower immigrant communities all across the New Jersey. In my twelve months in coalition with you, I feel both grateful and galvanized.
In that year, New Jersey also
became the first state on the East Coast to ban ICE detention agreements. We became the 15th state to enact a status-neutral drivers' license program, and fought for a first-of-its-kind direct cash benefit program, the Excluded New Jerseyans Fund, to provide relief for households excluded from federal stimulus. We made history together, and I'm humbled by and in awe of your fight.
It's January again and we are pleased to announce that we are growing our team again, too!
I am thrilled to be joined in this work by advocates who have an unwavering dedication to social, racial, and economic justice. Please join me in welcoming:

Michelle Ancil, she/her, Communications Coordinator. Laura Bustamante, she/her, Policy & Campaigns Manager. Aidee Pascual, she/her, Administrative Assistant. Kat Phan, she/her, 2022 Intern.

Click to read more about our team.

January is a time of renewal and reflection.
This month, we highlight Selaedin Maksut, Executive Director of the New Jersey chapter of Council for American Islamic Relations (CAIR-NJ). CAIR-NJ is at the fore of the fight to designate January as Muslim Awareness and Appreciation month. Selaedin reminds us about the importance of reflecting on the legacies and movements that came before us and celebrating the richness of our diversity.

In Solidarity and Community,
Amy Torres


Member Spotlight

 It's a blessing to be a part of a social movement that stands on the frontlines. We proudly and humbly stand on the shoulders of those that came before us, and the legacies of those who did tenfold of what we are doing today. Championing these causes and being a voice for the voiceless is a huge honor and blessing," says Selaedin Maksut, Executive Director, CAIR-NJ

A header image with the words


The Values Act was re-introduced in the Assembly and Senate as A1986/S512. The Values Act would provide critical protections that allow New Jerseyans to seek support from state and local agencies without fear of deportation. Tell your legislator you expect to see their support!


NILC Features NJ's Anti-Detention Law

National Immigration Law Center

The incredible campaign behind the bill that banned new ICE detention agreements, renewals, and expansions was featured in the National Immigration Law Center's annual report on Winning in the States.

The report celebrates New Jersey's win by acknowledging the many fronts of the battle: "The anti-detention fight in New Jersey has been a decades-long movement...but with closure announcements and the ban on new and renewed contracts, New Jersey will not have any ICE detention centers after 2023."

Excluded NJ Fund Falls Short

In the midst of the news that major parts of the Excluded New Jerseyans Fund had been diverted and then quickly restored, New Jersey Policy Perspective released a report.

NJPP's analysis finds, "[e]ven if the Excluded New Jerseyans Fund were kept at its original funding level, it does not match the aid provided to others facing financial hardship due to COVID-19." The report goes on to say, "not only do payments...fall far short of the cost of living in New Jersey, but the size of the fund is also too small to reach all excluded workers."

Fair Legislative Districts

Legislative redistricting is still underway but time is running out! Your voice is needed to make sure maps are fair, racially just, and representative of your community. 

NJAIJ is a proud member of the Fair Districts coalition. 
Research shows that public testimony at redistricting hearings is effective when it offers specific instructions to mapmakers, focuses on small-scale changes (like keeping a neighborhood together), and effectively defines a community and its needs for representation. You are the expert on your community. Get involved!

Ready to act? Spread the word:

New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice

P.O. Box, 200492,  | Newark, New Jersey  07102| [email protected]

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