As Biden Administration turns its back on immigrant communities, NJAIJ looks to the Governor and Legislature to act

TRENTON, NJ [February 27, 2024] - As immigrants face an increasingly hostile approach from the federal government, and attacks from local and county politicians, NJAIJ urges the Governor’s Administration and the State Legislature to further invest in programs that support immigrants, asylum seekers, and new arrivals. 

Today Governor Murphy addressed the 220th Legislature – a body that has seen a nearly 25% change in membership following last year’s election. Across New Jersey, from Plainfield to Atlantic City, Edison, to Secaucus, local and county politicians have targeted and scapegoated immigrant communities – by threatening to call ICE on protestors, claiming that asylum seekers were part of a criminal network, or passing ordinances condemning the State’s sanctuary policies. These dangerous, often racist, sentiments parallel a shift in approach from the Biden Administration, who has increased arrests, enforcement, and detention, restricted access to asylum and other protections, and notably filed suit against New Jersey’s ban on immigration detention. 

By contrast, Governor Murphy was clear in his address: “We all rely on the immigrant workers who keep the lights on in New Jersey. In that same spirit, let us recognize that creating opportunities — for every New Jerseyan — is not just about jobs or GDP growth. It is also about defending the fundamental rights of everyone so we all have the freedom to achieve our own American Dream.”

Earlier this year during the State of the State, Governor Murphy dedicated to make New Jersey more affordable and welcoming, and “the best place to raise a family.” In response, social and racial justice advocates called on the Governor’s Administration to build towards a more safe and inclusive New Jersey by addressing the rising demand for programs and policies that empower migrants.

As the state now begins budget negotiations, NJAIJ urges on the Governor and the Legislature to anticipate further erosion in federal immigration policy and deeply invest in the immigrant services and programs that provide sanctuary, support, and protection for New Jersey families, starting with:

  • Steeply investing in immigrant programs to build on the expansive services the State already provides
  • Increased investments in affordable and emergency housing and tenant and eviction protections
  • Expanding state Medicaid access for undocumented children and other immigrants

In December 2023, the federal backlog on immigration cases had grown to 3,287,058. Five years ago, noncitizens were able to secure attorneys in 65 percent of all pending cases in the Court’s backlog. Today, this proportion has dropped to just 30 percent. Just last year, the Biden administration joined Core Civic, the world’s largest private prison corporation, to challenge New Jersey’s ban on immigration detention. Though New Jersey is defending this law in appeals court, legal services that protect immigrants from deportation and detention have not significantly increased since the program was created. NJAIJ calls for an investment of $10.2 million in the Detention and Deportation Defense Initiative.

The Biden administration has also already restricted criteria for asylum seekers with its codification of Title 42 policies in early 2023. The administration is rumored to be exploring additional restrictions through Executive Order after a restrictionist border deal failed in the Senate early this year. A more restrictive asylum policy will result in families separating and sending unaccompanied children across the border. This increases the risks and vulnerabilities for minors to be exploited, trafficked, and permanently separated from their families. In 2021, New Jersey became the first state to provide representation for unaccompanied minors. NJAIJ calls for an investment in this program up to $7.5 million

NJAIJ applauds the Budget In Brief’s $1 million investment in Language Access, starting with the Department of Human Services, to provide model implementation policies for state agencies who will be affected by the law signed earlier this year. NJAIJ looks forward to working with NJDHS, the Office of the Attorney General, and the Office for Information Technology to ensure this law is implemented on schedule. 

In his speech, Governor Murphy highlighted the success and need for expansion of programs such as Cover All Kids, and in affordable housing. Over the last two years, New Jersey has seen a rise in asylum seekers and other new arrivals from the Southern Border, culminating in a series of chartered buses that arrived across several cities in New Jersey in late December 2023 when they were barred from continuing on their journey to New York City. Though a majority of these families have continued along their way, NJAIJ calls for increased investments in affordable housing, like the package that recently passed the Assembly, tenant and eviction protections like DCA’s Comprehensive Eviction Defense and Diversion Program, that benefit not only immigrant families, but all New Jerseyans who are affected by the national housing crisis. Further, NJAIJ welcomes the Governor’s remarks on Cover All Kids and calls on the Legislature to expand state Medicaid eligibility to more undocumented New Jerseyans, like the proposal offered under Bill A577/S779. NJAIJ is encouraged by the Budget in Brief inclusion of $4 million to pay for emergency hotel and motel placements, and encourages a greater investment in this effort to support asylum seekers and new arrivals who are ineligible for other types of emergency and affordable housing due to immigration status.

NJAIJ, alongside our members and partners, has fiercely fought for policies that empower and protect immigrants, most recently pushing for the state’s first Language Access Plan to provide translation and interpretation in New Jersey’s top spoken languages. We will continue to work in coalition to review additional budget documents that will be released in the hours and days ahead and call for our champions in the legislature to stand by the communities they represent. As the legislative session and committee hearings stretch into the spring, NJAIJ looks forward to working in cross-movement coalition to fund a #NJforALL of us.

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.


Amy Torres


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