NJAIJ Staff Spotlight: Aidee Pascual and Laura Bustamante

Aidee Pascual (left), our Community Events Coordinator and Administrative Assistant, is the daughter of immigrant parents from Mexico and was born and raised in New Jersey. She is thoroughly impassioned with the work led by coalition members at NJAIJ and supports the critical infrastructure the coalition needs for our work ahead. Laura Bustamante (right), is our Policy and Campaigns Manager. Prior to joining NJAIJ, she was the Chief of Staff to Jersey City City Councilman James Solomon where she managed and maintained the day to day operations and helped lead and coordinate key progressive initiatives like affordable housing, social justice issues, and improving government efficiency. Aidee and Laura are cornerstones here at NJAIJ, and we celebrate them and their Latinx heritage every day!


A large part of our philosophy at NJAIJ isn’t to just celebrate holidays, heritage months, and special wins just when they happen, but rather to keep the sentiment going year round. How do you make sure to connect to and honor your Hispanic heritage on a daily basis?

Aidee: "My family is my strongest tie to my heritage. I honor that by asking them about what it was like to grow up there, what they miss, what they don’t, etc. They always have new stories to tell and it reminds me of the entirely different lives they lived before coming to the US. I believe knowing my family’s personal history connects me more to them and to my culture as well. On a more regular basis I like to blast my mom’s favorite Spanish pop songs of the 80s and drop in on her for the best Mexican food you just can’t get at a restaurant."

Laura: "Staying close to my culture and heritage is really important to me and it’s something that I always say it’s in my blood (quite literally). One way that I stay connected to my culture is by listening to music in the morning’s when I get ready for work or what I have in the background when I’m at my desk. I especially love listening to vallenatos, salsa, and everyone’s favorite Bad Bunny. I’m also really lucky to have Colombian stores near where I live so for breakfast I almost always have arepa and Colombian coffee which makes me feel as if I was in Medellin."

As a Latinx woman of the immigrant community in politics and advocacy, what does this identity mean to you, and why do you think it’s important?

Aidee: "Being the Latinx daughter of immigrants and being able to work in advocacy is extremely important because it is the ultimate way of honoring my parents and all of my family. I can’t change what they’ve had to go through as immigrants in the US, but I can be a part of the movement towards justice for them."

Laura: "First, I’ll say I stand on the shoulders of giants that came before me, people that inspire me everyday that look like me and since I was a little girl made me feel like I too one day could use my voice to create change. I’m thinking of women like Sonya Sotomayor, Michelle Obama, and some local women right here in New Jersey like Senator Ruiz and activists like Karol Ruiz. It is thanks to so many Latina women that came before me that I felt the empowerment to get involved in this movement. I think being loud and proud of who I am in this space is extremely important because it gives so many others like me a voice that they might not even know they have. Historically immigrants especially women of color have always been pushed to the side and are repeatedly told their concerns don’t matter. Due to this, those that are in this space need to be 10x louder and stronger to ensure our issues are always heard and we aren’t left behind no matter what space we are in."

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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