Member Spotlight on Nate Phillips, LALDEF Adult Education Programs Coordinator

We spoke to Nate Philips, Adult Education Programs Coordinator at member organization LALDEFa grassroots nonprofit organization formed to defend the civil rights of Latin Americans and facilitate their access to health care and education, as well as to advance cross-cultural understanding in the Mercer County area.

We asked Nate what he loves about his work. Here is what he shared,

“Independence day makes me think of the promise of the United States: liberty and justice for all. We have this ideal that the country has been chasing for hundreds of years… If the United States celebrates this aspiration, but people are fighting everyday for their basic rights, how can this make any sense?” — Nate Philips, Adult Education Programs Coordinator, LALDEF - The Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc.


Nate on why it is important for LALDEF to support achieving policies in New Jersey that welcome and support immigrants...

The Alliance’s mission is very similar to LALDEF’s, which is to promote the rights of all immigrants. LALDEF focuses on the Latin American community in the Mercer County area facilitating access to health care, education and legal representation; advocate for the integration of immigrants; and foster intercultural communication to strengthen our communities). Just as the Alliance, LALDEF wishes to see immigrant communities thrive - not just be integrated, but really thrive, which can happen if policies promote economic, political and social prosperity for immigrants.

Nate on what initiatives LALDEF is leading… 

LALDEF is leading on many initiatives! In the Education department, we provide: English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), ESOL Tutoring, High School Equivalency Exam Prep in Spanish (HSE), Citizenship Preparation, Digital Literacy Workshops, and Drivers Education Workshops. We are currently looking for tutors, signing up students, and preparing for when classes start. 


LALDEF is also providing COVID19 resources and helping to get the community vaccinated through our vaccination outreach program. LALDEF offers all three vaccines: Pfzier, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. Our next community vaccination event is August 4th!


We also lead on counseling and community advocacy efforts to assist community members in navigating the system, like healthcare, municipal IDs, etc. Support LALDEF on Facebook!


Nate on the meaning of Independence Day as an advocate...

The system is not perfect. In a true democracy, everyone should be heard and represented, and I don’t think we currently have that. Independence day makes me think of the promise of the United States: liberty and justice for all. We have this ideal that the country has been chasing for hundreds of years. We can celebrate it as much as we want, but when will we actually reach this ideal? What would it look like to live this ideal? If the United States celebrates this aspiration, but people are fighting everyday for their basic rights, how can this make any sense? It is difficult to celebrate such an ideal when injustice persists in this country. Movements, like Black Lives Matters, highlight the contradictions of this country. When will this ideal that Independence Day celebrates, be lived and enjoyed by all?


Nate on how he came into this work...

I went to college interested in pursuing a career in music. Once I graduated in 2017, I started working as an ESL instructor and enjoyed it. Through that experience, I saw the impact that learning had on people in a positive way. The learning process and learning outcomes were meaningful to community members who attended the classes. 


Nate on what social justice means to him...

What I’ve learned from my experience is that I have to learn more; learn where there is injustice and discrimination and understand why. For example, I come from a privileged background where from a young age I knew how to work a computer. I took this for granted. When I started teaching, I began to see the discrepancies. Some students didn’t know how to use a computer and they were older than I was. It is important to become aware of the disparities and fight for access and opportunities, which shouldn’t be limited to the privileged few.


Nate on a quote he appreciates...

“The adult education system plays a critical role in building the human capital of immigrants who have limited host-country language proficiency, as well as for those who lack a high school diploma or equivalent. Adult education also has the potential to serve as an on-ramp to postsecondary education and jobs paying a family-sustaining wage”


This quote resonates with me and the work that the education programs at LALDEF aims to do. Adult education, like the ones we provide, can help immigrant communities find employment, continue their education, navigate doctors appointments, talk to their children’s teachers, or just get around using public transportation. It’s incredible to be a part of this work. The education programs that LALDEF leads on really help people. It makes their lives a bit easier. Seeing how it all impacts the community, and having a small part in it, is rewarding. 


Nate on what he is currently reading...

I am currently reading One-Hundred Years of Solitude, in Spanish, by Gabriel García Márquez! I am taking it slow and reading on the weekends when I have time.


Nate on what brings him joy during these turbulent times...

I started a YouTube channel last year during the pandemic. I play the piano, which I have been playing since I was 7, and started recording myself doing covers of songs. It has been an unexpected joy of mine. Check out Nate’s Youtube Channel here!


Support LALDEF’s work

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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