NJAIJ Welcomes Amy Torres as Executive Director

New Jersey Alliance For Immigrant Justice Welcomes New Director

After a 9-month search, Alliance leadership selects Amy Torres to lead the organization’s immigrants’ rights priorities and statewide movement-building work 


Newark, NJ – Wednesday, December 23rd, 2020 – The New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice announced Amy Torres as the new Director of the statewide coalition beginning in January 2021. The Alliance works to achieve local and state policies that welcome immigrants to become rooted in New Jersey. As the incoming director, Torres will lead a coalition of over 42 member organizations and three Alliance staff members to coordinate the policy and organizational priorities.

Torres brings seven years of immigrants’ rights policy advocacy and leadership experience, most recently as the Policy and Advocacy Director at the Chinese-American Planning Council (CPC) in New York City. They also bring strong experience in coalition-building and advocacy in low-income, immigrant, and Asian and Pacific American communities, and in grassroots organizing in Hudson County. Torres’s work ethos is informed by their experience as a second-generation Filipinx immigrant tracing their roots from the Philippines to New Jersey.

“I am excited to join the NJAIJ whose advocacy is at the forefront of the immigrant justice fight in New Jersey. Firmly rooted in my identity and experience is the belief that human rights and liberties should not be subject to change because of something as arbitrary as birthplace, borders, or paperwork. Public policy must look to undo deeply entrenched harms and restore dignity to those most marginalized by existing systems of power. I look forward to working alongside the fierce champions at the Alliance who are leading the way for immigrants’ rights, justice, and belonging,” said Amy Torres, incoming Director of the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice.

In March 2020, Maneesha Kelker joined the Alliance as the Interim Director and the Alliance formed its search committee for the next director. Simultaneously, New Jersey responded to the global pandemic with an emergency statewide stay at home order. The resulting first wave of Covid19 cases and massive job losses for undocumented immigrant workers and families were particularly devasting.  Under Kelkar’s leadership, the Alliance pivoted to address the urgent need for income relief for immigrants left out of state pandemic relief efforts, and the immediate need to release immigrants in detention facilities in order to diminish the risk of Covid19 outbreaks.

“I feel deeply honored to have had the opportunity to shepherd NJAIJ during its period of transition. Despite an unprecedented pandemic that changed the world as we know it, we continued to forge ahead, working alongside our members to fight for the rights of all immigrants. I am grateful to all the passionate activists and advocates I have met this year, including our dedicated staff – they have taught me what commitment means. I wish the Alliance the best in its unwavering determination to fight for dignity and respect for all immigrants in New Jersey,” said Maneesha Kelkar, Interim Director of the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice. 

The Alliance was formed in 2014 with a handful of founding member organizations and one program coordinator. Since then, the organization has grown into a powerful force in achieving immigrants’ rights policies across the state.

In the six years since its founding, the Alliance achieved significant policy wins for immigrants, previously deemed too politically unviable for New Jersey. These achievements include municipal ID programs in municipalities across the state; the 2018 Attorney General’s “Immigrant Trust Directive” which limits collaboration between local and state law enforcement and federal immigration enforcement; and the passage of the “Driver’s Licenses For All” legislation into law in 2019, which expands eligibility to standard driver’s licenses for nearly half-a-million undocumented immigrant residents in New Jersey.

Guided by immigrant-led principles and democratic decision-making processes, the Alliance’s work is first informed by New Jerseyans most directly impacted by immigration policies, and then by those who work most closely with immigrants as advocates, community organizers, and community leaders.

On the horizon for the Alliance remains the achievement of the implementation of the driver’s licenses for all law, and the passage of fair and welcoming state policies legislation that would allow immigrants to live without fear of immigration enforcement in New Jersey.  Just this week, the Alliance worked with our partners to introduce legislation to ban any new, renewed, or expansion of immigration detention agreements in New Jersey.  In 2021 and beyond, the Alliance will push to achieve this legislation as well as other policies to make New Jersey a more fair and welcoming place for all immigrants regardless of their status.

Lastly, the New Jersey Alliance For Immigrant Justice will continue to support new grassroots community organizations working in immigrant communities. In particular, uplifting immigrant communities which are often invisibilized within New Jersey’s immigrants’ rights advocacy such as Arab, Black, African, Asian, South Asian, Filipinx, and migrant agricultural workers. To this end, this year the Alliance welcomed three new members including Migrante NJ, Palestinian American Cultural Center, and CATA – The Farmworkers Support Committee.

The Alliance membership includes: 1199 SEIU, 32BJ SEIU, American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, American Friends Service Committee, Beacon – Unitarian Universalist Church in Summit Faith in New Jersey, The Latin American Legal Defense & Education Fund, Inc., Latino Action Network, Make the Road New Jersey, New Jersey Communities United, New Labor, New Jersey Policy Perspective, New Jersey Working Families, Wind of the Spirit- Immigrant Resource Center, Anti-Poverty Network of New Jersey, Bangladeshi American Women’s Development Initiative, Casa Freehold, CATA – The Farmworkers Support Committee, Catholic Charities Diocese of Metuchen, Catholic Charities Diocese of Trenton, Central Jersey Coalition Against Endless War, Centro Comunitario CEUS, Central Unitarian Church – Social Justice Committee, Community of Friends in Action, El Centro Hispanoamericano, Ethical Culture Society of Bergen County, First Friends NJ & NY, Haiti Solidarity Network of the North East, Hispanic Family Center of Southern New Jersey Ironbound Community Corporation, Kids In Need of Defense (KIND), National Association of Social Workers – New Jersey Chapter, New Jersey Citizen Action, New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, Northern New Jersey Sanctuary Coalition, Migrante -New Jersey,  OASIS, Palestinian American Community Center, Statewide Parent Advocacy Network, Inc., The Social Responsibilities Council of The Unitarian Society of Ridgewood, Unitarian Universalist FaithAction NJ, and the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Princeton.

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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