NEWARK -- The New Jersey Appellate Division today ruled today in favor of a young American citizen denied state financial aid last year based on the immigration status of her mother rather than her own residency. The court’s ruling stated the student, A.Z., was in fact eligible for a Tuition Aid Grant (TAG) from the state and that the state’s Higher Education Student Assistance Authority (HESSA) misapplied the law when it denied her application.
The ACLU-NJ and the Rutgers Constitutional Litigation Clinic filed an appeal last year on behalf of A.Z., who was a high school senior when HESAA denied her TAG grant application because her “parents are not legal New Jersey residents.”
“This is an important ruling for children of immigrants throughout New Jersey. For the purpose of state financial aid, American citizens cannot be punished for the immigration status of their parents." said Ronald K. Chen of Rutgers Law School-Newark's Constitutional Litigation Clinic, who argued the case on behalf of A.Z. “HESAA clearly misapplied the law and the court admonished the agency in response.”
A.Z. met the two requirements to apply for state aid from HESAA: demonstration of financial need and New Jersey residency. A.Z. was born in the United States and has lived in New Jersey with her mother, a single parent, since 1997. According to the Appellate Division, HESAA violated state statute by considering her “residency” to be that of her mother’s country of origin, rather than New Jersey.
“We conclude that irrebuttably assigning to a dependent student the domicile of his or her parent alters the plain meaning of the statute and is contrary to the underlying legislative intent,” the court stated. The court took the unusual step of voiding an agency regulation as beyond the agency’s authority. The court declared, “To the extent the agency's 2005 regulation irrebuttably established that a dependent student's legal residence or domicile is that of his or her parents, it is void.”
In addition, the state argued that the beneficiary of the tuition aid would be A.Z.’s mother, not A.Z. The court stated HESAA’s argument runs afoul of the meaning of the TAG statute, which expressly provides for the award of the financial aid to the student.
“Not every parent’s support invariably extends to higher education,” the ruling stated. “The TAG grant is a need-based grant, and, in the case of a dependent student, is determined in light of the limited ability to pay of the dependent student’s parents.”
As a result of her denied financial aid application, A.Z. took on a full-time job to support herself and attended community college rather than one of the several four-year colleges to which she was admitted.
“A hardworking U.S.-born citizen at the top of her class should be the future of the American dream, not have her dreams stunted by discrimination,” said ACLU-NJ Policy Counsel Alexander Shalom. “This doesn’t erase the hardships A.Z. has endured for the past year, but it does guarantee that students will not have to watch their horizons narrow before their eyes.”
NEWARK — The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey (ACLU-NJ) and the Rutgers Constitutional Litigation Clinic have filed an appeal on behalf of a high school student who was denied state financial aid because of the immigration status of her mother. The student, A.Z., is an American citizen who filed for a Tuition Aid Grant (TAG) through the state's Higher Education Student Assistance Authority (HESAA).
The state rejected her request for aid, explaining that the high school senior was ineligible because her "parents are not legal New Jersey residents." Her mother is an undocumented immigrant.
Students from New Jersey who enroll at a college or university in the state are eligible for state financial aid. In order to qualify for the funds, the state requires students demonstrate financial need and be U.S. citizens. The legislation that created the tuition program does not make any stipulations about the immigration status of the parents of student applicants.
"Our client is a hardworking high school student at the top of her class, a native born U.S. citizen and lifelong New Jersey resident with a promising future ahead of her," said Ronald K. Chen of Rutgers Constitutional Litigation Clinic. "The state cannot deny her access to higher education simply because of her parents' immigration status. The state law that created this program does not mention immigration status of the parent, and even if it did, the federal and state constitutions forbid discrimination against U.S. citizens due to the parent's status."
The appeal, filed directly to the Appellate Division of New Jersey Superior Court, also contends the state has violated the state and federal Constitutions' guarantee of Equal Protection.
"New Jersey's policy is unconstitutional and unconscionable: in the United States, citizens cannot be punished based on their parentage," said ACLU-NJ Policy Counsel Alexander Shalom. "With the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment and the rejection of the Dred Scott decision, our country ensured that all people born here are equal before the law."
Newark, N.J. - For five decades, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey has been a gale force in the most critical social debates of our time and a vigilant guardian of civil rights for all.
In June, the ACLU-NJ will mark the 50th anniversary of its founding and celebrate its standing as one of the largest and most active affiliates in the nation. Created to counter the growing pressures on civil liberties in the state, the affiliate's first official meeting took place on the night of June 16, 1960. Since its start, the affiliate, which has continued to keep its headquarters in Newark, has seen its membership multiply nearly 10-fold, from 1,600 people to more than 15,000.
"We believe that the liberties in the Bill of Rights belong to every American, to all the people in New Jersey regardless of their political beliefs, race, religion or national origin," ACLU-NJ founder and longtime President Emil Oxfeld said in the original press release announcing the formation of the state's affiliate. "We believe these freedoms must be exercised if democracy in our state is to grow and thrive."
Oxfeld went on to list issues that desperately needed attention at the time - due process, racial discrimination, the separation of church and state, and freedom from censorship - all principles the ACLU still defends daily.
"While some of the issues raised in our cases over the years seem archaic by today's standards, many haven't changed at all," said ACLU-NJ Executive Director Deborah Jacobs, who has led the affiliate since 1999, including during the biggest membership spike in its history. "The law has advanced remarkably in areas like women's rights, lesbian and gay rights, and safeguarding personal privacy, but with issues like free speech, police practices and religious freedom, no fight ever stays won."
"The ACLU of New Jersey has been a leader in the crucial civil liberties battles of our time," said Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the national ACLU. "While each new era brings a wave of assaults on freedom, the ACLU of New Jersey responds swiftly and decisively, protecting the rights of all Garden State residents. It has proven its value on the American political landscape."
Since opening its doors and springing into action - its first official undertaking was commending the Clifton Library's stance against banning books like Lady Chatterley's Lover - the ACLU-NJ has doggedly worked for justice and equality in New Jersey.
In its first decade the ACLU-NJ took strong action following the 1967 Newark Rebellion. Staffers took to the streets in the aftermath, painstakingly cataloguing police abuses to the ACLU-NJ would refer to in its demands for reform. The New Jersey affiliate also emerged even more progressive than the national ACLU, becoming one of the first state affiliates to take a stand against the Vietnam War.
Since those early years, the ACLU-NJ has grown into one of the country's largest and most active state affiliates, with a record of milestones that has earned it a role on the national stage. Among its accomplishments, the ACLU-NJ:
The ACLU-NJ is celebrating the clients, attorneys, leaders and volunteers - many involved in the cases highlighted above - who have built its legacy, from its founders to its future. The stories of these 50 Faces of Liberty can be found at the ACLU-NJ website, http://www.aclu-nj.org
"Society has changed dramatically since our founding, but we've never lost the fire that fuels the ACLU's advocacy," Jacobs added. "We can't always predict what challenges lie ahead for liberty in a changing world, but whatever they are, the ACLU stands ready to defend the fundamental rights of ordinary Americans."
The year-long commemoration will culminate November 4 at the NJ Freedom Fest: A night of laughter and liberties, hosted by comedian Jimmy Tingle and featuring faces from the ACLU past and present, to be held at the Heldrich Hotel in New Brunswick.
NEWARK - School is out for Newark's students, but Mayor Cory Booker's junior-year report card on civil liberties has just been released by the ACLU-NJ. The mayor passed, but not with flying colors. At the end of his third year in office, the Stanford and Yale-educated All-American and Rhodes Scholar earned a "C" average in civil liberties, with his worst grade, a "D," in the area of Police Practices.
"Mayor Booker deserves high marks in public speaking, but he has room to improve on the subject of civil liberties," said ACLU-NJ Executive Director Deborah Jacobs. "The Mayor came to City Hall promising to protect civil liberties, but when it's time to put those principles into practice, he hasn't lived up to his potential."
The good news: Mayor Booker earned a "B" on Immigrant Rights, and a "B" in Open Government.
The bad news: Mayor Booker earned a "C-" for Free Speech, and a "D" in Police Practices - and just barely.
"This report card is more than just handing out a grade -- we're looking at the real lives of people in this city and adding up the costs to their rights," said Jacobs. "The Booker administration still needs to learn that you can't have public safety without public trust, and you can only earn that trust by respecting the rights of the people."
NEWARK - The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey released a new report today, on the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, giving an overview of the state's landscape for immigrants. The report will be released at a New Jersey immigration forum this evening commemorating International Human Rights Day, hosted by the ACLU-NJ, the American Friends Service Committee and a dozen of the leading immigration groups in the state.
"The anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a time to take stock of where we are as a country with respect to human rights and examine how far we still have left to go," said ACLU-NJ Executive Director Deborah Jacobs. "Our report looks at the state of human rights for New Jersey's immigrants and the direction we must take as a state to guarantee that their rights are honored rather than denied."
The report puts New Jersey's diversity in perspective, offering statistics about its ethnic makeup while recounting its history, including recent history: immigration raids, driver's license restrictions, and the Attorney General's August 2007 directive prohibiting police from asking immigration status of victims and witnesses.
"Immigrant rights are human rights," said Amy Gottlieb, director of the American Friends Service Committee's Program on Human Rights in Newark. "Right now, we have a duty to make sure that the next four years don't bring the same hostile policies we've seen in the past four. We as advocates are strategizing to create a society that pays attention to human rights every day, not just on the day designated to commemorate them."
Tonight's forum will address the most pressing issues for New Jersey immigrants, including how human rights guarantee immigrants' rights, the effect of the recession on New Jersey's immigrant communities, and how the political climate toward immigrants in America will fare in an Obama administration.
Please join us for our immigration forum tonight:
Sixtieth Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Immigration Forum
Wednesday, December 10, 7 p.m.
89 Market Street, Eighth Floor, Newark
973-854-0403 for information
PLAINFIELD, NJ - The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), Seton Hall Law School Center for Social Justice and the law firm Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP (Fried Frank) filed a friend of the court brief in the case Del Rio-Mocci v. Connolly Properties, Inc., in order to protect the right to housing for Latinos and other immigrants and to thwart anti-immigrant efforts to compel landlords to enforce federal immigration law.
"It's a huge stretch to claim that RICO, a law aimed at dismantling organized crime, stops landlords from renting to people they are legally allowed to rent to," said ACLU of New Jersey Legal Director Ed Barocas. "The first attempts to run immigrants out of town failed in Hazleton, Pa., and Riverside, N.J., and this new backdoor attempt is no better."
The brief was filed on behalf of leading organizations and institutions that represent the interests of, and provide services to, immigrant communities in New Jersey, including: the New Jersey Institution for Social Justice, the New Jersey Immigration Policy Network, the Latino Leadership Alliance of New Jersey, CATA: the Farmworkers' Support Committee, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund, and the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey.
"Landlords are neither qualified nor authorized to act as de facto immigration agents," said ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project attorney Eunice Lee. "They lack the skills and training to make immigration status determinations, and forcing them to do so will lead to wrongful denials of housing."
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court in New Jersey by the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI), an organization that has sponsored a series of anti-immigrant municipal housing ordinances throughout the country, alleges that by renting apartments to undocumented immigrants, landlords are in violation of federal statutes which impose criminal penalties for harboring undocumented persons. In effect, plaintiffs are seeking to have federal law interpreted in a manner that will compel landlords to screen and investigate the immigration status of prospective tenants.
"Latinos and others -- regardless of nationality or immigration status -- will face additional scrutiny when attempting to secure or maintain housing because landlords will be hesitant to rent to individuals they perceive to be immigrants based solely on race or language ability," said Cynthia Valenzuela, MALDEF's Director of Litigation. "This is a dangerous and unlawful precedent that would ripple far beyond New Jersey and create a national climate of fear and racial profiling in the provision of housing."
Local anti-immigrant municipal housing ordinances have been consistently struck down by courts that found them to be plainly discriminatory and preempted by federal law. Since efforts to displace immigrants through unconstitutional local ordinances have been unsuccessful, IRLI now brings this suit that threatens to destabilize local communities and vulnerable populations by inducing the wrongful denial of housing to Latinos and other immigrants, creating fear in immigrant communities, and otherwise, sanctioning the wrongful denial of civil rights.
"New Jersey's immigrant service providers are deeply troubled by this effort to deprive immigrant families of a roof over their heads," said Bassina Farbenblum, an attorney at Seton Hall's Center for Social Justice. "This lawsuit is yet another misguided attempt by anti-immigrant groups to end-run state and federal anti-discrimination laws and deny immigrant men, women and children their basic human right to shelter."
The amicus brief, filed by leading organizations on behalf of organizations that represent or provide services to immigrant communities, urges the court to reject the claims presented in this unprecedented case and argues that a determination in plaintiffs favor will impermissibly require landlords to engage in immigration status determinations, and will inevitably result in unlawful discrimination against immigrants (including U.S. citizens and lawful residents) in New Jersey and throughout the country.
NEWARK - As New Jersey students head back to school, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey has released findings that at least 20 percent of New Jersey public school districts are breaking the law by asking for information that would reveal a parent or child's Social Security number or immigration status as a prerequisite for enrollment. On Friday, the ACLU-NJ sent letters to Department of Education Commissioner Lucille Davy and the 187 offending school districts in New Jersey asking them to more aggressively enforce the laws that stop schools from requesting Social Security numbers or immigration status.
"The law is clear -- so why are so many schools still illegally requesting this information?" asked ACLU-NJ Racial Justice Attorney Nadia Seeratan, who oversaw the study. "The Constitution promises every child in the United States a right to education; requiring proof of citizenship as a condition of enrollment breaks that promise."
Beginning in July, the ACLU-NJ attempted to survey 635 New Jersey school entities listed by county on the Department of Education website (615 districts as well as 20 charter schools, which have unique application processes) to assess the legality of their enrollment requirements. ACLU-NJ staff and volunteers successfully contacted 516, or 80 percent, of all school districts and charter schools.
The survey found that 139 - over a quarter of those successfully contacted - illegally required information that would reveal the Social Security number or immigration status of students seeking to enroll despite state, federal and constitutional laws prohibiting the practice. Another 48 suggested that immigration information would help in the registration process. Thus, a total of 187 - more than one in three - responded in violation of the law or in a manner prone to deter student enrollment.
At least 35 school districts in the state requested Social Security numbers or immigration information on their written enrollment forms, including Hackensack, Hoboken and Roselle Park.
Monmouth County was the worst offender, with 26 districts requiring citizenship or immigration-related information to enroll.
When the ACLU-NJ conducted a similar survey two years ago, it found that 58 of the 224 school districts surveyed required proof of a child's immigration status. Of those, nearly two-thirds said they would remove sections of their enrollment forms asking for students' status. In this year's follow-up survey, 21 of the offending school districts from 2006 still required that information, including Irvington, Trenton and Middlesex.
"Two years after our first survey of schools, we've found the same problems, and in many cases, in the same schools," said Seeratan. "Many of New Jersey's children won't have equal access to an education unless schools follow the law and treat all students equally."
Attending school is one of the fastest ways for immigrant children to assimilate in the United States, and an education empowers students to become productive members of an open society. Brown v. the Board of Education called education "perhaps the most important function of state and local governments" and said success in this country is nearly impossible without one. A 2004 Pew Hispanic Center study found that Latinos in New Jersey were the most likely to feel that discrimination in school interfered with their ability to succeed in this country.
"Every child in New Jersey has a right to an education," said Deborah Jacobs, ACLU-NJ executive director. "And it's in our best interests as a society for all children to be educated. New Jersey, as one of the most diverse states in the nation, has a special obligation to make sure all children, from every background and walk of life, can have a solid education."
NEWARK, N.J. -- The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey and the Farmworkers' Support Committee announced today that the City of Bridgeton has agreed to settle a federal lawsuit brought by the groups.
The ACLU-NJ and the Farmworkers' Support Committee, also known as El Comité de Apoyo a los Trabajadores Agricolas, or CATA, filed a lawsuit on July 9, 2007, against Bridgeton for charging a fee of more than $1,500 for an immigrants rights march held on May 1.
In the settlement, Bridgeton agreed not to collect any fees for the May 1 march or impose any fees for marches or other free speech activities in the city's public forums under its existing ordinances and policies.
"We're pleased that the city backed off of its unjustifiable position," said Frank Corrado, who on behalf of the ACLU-NJ is the volunteer attorney for CATA. "It clearly didn't have the authority to impose such fees on free speech activities."
The city retained the right to adopt new ordinances that regulated such activities. CATA retained the right to challenge such an ordinance if they believe it to be unconstitutional or otherwise invalid.
"We will closely monitor any proposed ordinances to ensure that the city does not unfairly burden the rights of immigrants - or anyone - to engage in free speech activities," said Nelson Carrasquillo, CATA Executive Director.
The lawsuit, CATA v. Bridgeton, was filed in U.S. District Court in Camden.
More information on CATA is available at http://www.cata-farmworkers.org
| Los oficiales locales impusieron una multa inconstitucional de mas
de $1.500 a CATA, los organizadores de esta marcha que ocurrió
el 1 de mayo del 2007 en Bridgeton, NJ. Foto de David Bacon
NEWARK, N.J. -- La Unión Americana de Libertades Civiles de Nueva Jersey (ACLU-NJ) y el Comité de Apoyo a los Trabajadores Agrícolas (CATA) y demandaron en el corte distrito federal a la ciudad de Bridgeton para cobrarles una tarifa de mas que $1,500 por una marcha por los derechos de los inmigrantes realizado el 1ero de mayo.
Esta tarifa se aproxima a un impuesto de usuario por la libertad de expresión y eso es inconstitucional," dijo Frank Corrado quien, de parte del ACLU-NJ, es el abogado voluntario para CATA. "Bridgeton es responsable para proveer policía y otros servicios gubernamentales para todo uso de sus calles publicas, incluyendo para marchas y desfiles. Imposición de estas tarifas significará que solo los ricos tendrán el derecho a expresarse, y nuestro Constitución agraciadamente lo prohíbe."
Este año, como el año pasado, CATA organizó una Marcha de Derechos de los Inmigrantes en Bridgeton para expresar apoyo para la reforma migratoria.
En 2006, la marcha de CATA no fue cobrada ninguna tarifa para policía o limpieza. Como el año pasado, CATA aplico por un permiso y trabajo con la policía y la ciudad para determinar la ruta. Ambos años, la marcha se realizo sin incidente alguno.
Pero, este año, Bridgeton demando una tarifa de $1,800 para la policía y un depósito de $200 para limpieza. Después de negociaciones entre CATA, la ACLU-NJ, y Bridgeton, la ciudad se acordó no requerir que las tarifas sean pagadas antes de la marcha, pero agrego que enviaría la cuenta a CATA después de la marcha.
Varias semanas después de la marcha del 1 de mayo, CATA recibió una carta de la ciudad solicitando pago para gastos "adicionales" de policía para la actividad, sumando a más de $1,500. CATA solicito que se retirara la cuenta, pero en una carta recibida el 12 de junio, 2007, la ciudad dijo que perseguiría exigencia de pago y más que continuaría a buscar tal reembolso en el futuro.
"No le encuentro el valor que lo usa para prohibir los derechos que tenemos todos los que vivimos en este gran país a la libre expresión." dijo Mariza Ibarra, miembro de la Junta Directiva de CATA y residente de Bridgeton, "...somos una parte vulnerable de la población y solo estamos luchando para obtener la dignidad de vivir en este mundo como Dios quiere y esta Nación pregona."
En su demanda legal, el ACLU-NJ, en representación de CATA, dijo que oficiales de Bridgeton practicaron "discreción arbitraria y ilimitada" en facturar a CATA para los gastos de la policía dado que la ciudad no tiene una ordenanza que autorice imponer tarifas para marchas o desfiles.
CATA origino en 1975 como un proyecto de Trabajadores Agrícolas de ACLU-NJ. Después, CATA se re-organizo independientemente como una organización propia de membresía de trabajadores migrantes que lucha para los derechos humanos de trabajadores migrantes y inmigrantes. Actualmente CATA tiene membresía extensa por el sur de New Jersey y un comité de líderes activos en Bridgeton que organizaron ambas marchas y otras actividades en la comunidad.
La demanda, CATA v. Bridgeton, fue sometida en la Corte Federal en Camden.
La queja esta disponible en línea a: http://www.aclu-nj.org
Más información de CATA esta disponible a: http://www.cata-farmworkers.org
| Local officials imposed an unconstitutional police fee of more than $1,500
on CATA, the organizers of this May 1, 2007 march in Bridgeton, N.J.
Photo by David Bacon
NEWARK, N.J. -- The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey and the Farmworkers' Support Committee today filed a lawsuit in federal district court against the City of Bridgeton for charging a fee of more than $1,500 for an immigrant rights March held on May 1.
"This fee amounts to a user's tax on free speech and that is unconstitutional," said Frank Corrado, who on behalf of the ACLU-NJ is the volunteer attorney for the Farmworkers' Support Committee, also known as El Comité de Apoyo a los Trabajadores Agricolas or CATA. "Bridgeton is responsible for providing police and other government services for all forms of use of its public streets, including marches or parades. Imposition of these fees will mean that only the wealthy will be afforded the right to speak out on issues, and our Constitution thankfully forbids that."
This year, as last year, CATA held an immigrant rights March on May 1 in Bridgeton to express support for immigration reform.
In 2006, CATA's march was not charged any police or cleanup fees. As it did last year, CATA this year applied for a permit and worked with the police and the city to determine the route. Both years, the march occurred without incident.
However, this year Bridgeton demanded a $1,800 police fee and a $200 cleanup deposit. After negotiations between CATA and Bridgeton, the city agreed to drop its requirement that fees be paid prior to the march but added that it would bill CATA after the march.
Several weeks after the May 1 march, CATA received a letter from the city requesting payment for "additional" police expenses for the event, amounting to more than $1,500. CATA requested that the fees be withdrawn, but in a June 12, 2007 letter responding to the group, the city said that it would pursue its demand for the payment and, moreover, would continue to seek such reimbursement in the future.
"I don't see the logic the city of Bridgeton is using in prohibiting our rights to free expression that we all have living in this great country," said Mariza Ibarra, CATA board member and Bridgeton resident. "We are a vulnerable part of the population and we are only struggling to obtain dignity in this community and country."
In its legal complaint, the ACLU-NJ said Bridgeton officials exercised "unfettered, arbitrary discretion" in billing CATA for police expenses, since the city does not have an ordinance that authorizes it to impose fees for marches or parades.
CATA originated in 1975 as the ACLU-NJ Farmworkers' Project. CATA later reorganized independently as a migrant worker-organized membership organization that advocates for the human rights of migrant and immigrant workers. CATA has extensive membership throughout South Jersey and a committee of active leaders in Bridgeton that has organized both May 1 marches, as well as other activities in the community.
The lawsuit, CATA v. Bridgeton, was filed in U.S. District Court in Camden.
More information on CATA is available at http://www.cata-farmworkers.org