ACLU-NJ Executive Director Udi Ofer issues the following statement in light of Gov. Chris Christie’s announcement earlier today regarding tuition equality in New Jersey:
"The Governor’s statements today make clear that it’s past time for Governor Christie to come to the table and meet with Dreamers and advocates to ensure the strongest possible tuition equality bill is passed and signed this session. There remain many fundamental principles of agreement, and a few key differences to work through. It is important that New Jersey not make public policy decisions based on exceptions to the rule. We urge the Governor to focus on the immediate needs of New Jersey communities and to resist rejecting a critical policy reform that would help thousands of New Jerseyans based on the remote chance that the New Jersey Dream Act could potentially be misapplied."
For Thanksgiving, we want to share with you our gratitude for a few New Jersey public servants who have proved to be champions of civil liberties this year.
Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson and the NJ Supreme Court
In September, Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson made history with a decision declaring civil unions unconstitutional. Just a few weeks later, the NJ Supreme Court unanimously rejected Gov. Chris Christie's request to delay marriage equality. A few hours after the first marriages began at midnight on Oct. 21, Gov. Christie dropped his appeal. Judge Jacobson and the NJ Supreme Court – and, above all, the tireless advocates, especially Lambda Legal, Garden State Equality, and all of our partners in NJ United for Marriage – cleared the way for NJ to become the 14th state to recognize marriage equality.
State Senate President Stephen Sweeney and State Senators Teresa Ruiz, Nellie Pou and Sandra Cunningham, primary sponsors of the NJ Senate's Tuition Equality Act
After years of community and student activism, tremendous credit goes to these legislators for leading the charge for tuition equality in the NJ Senate. If enacted, the Tuition Equality Act (S2479) will allow undocumented NJ high school students who meet certain requirements to qualify for in-state tuition and financial aid opportunities. Gov. Christie announced support for tuition equality on the campaign trail, but then backtracked, saying the Senate's version of the bill "goes too far." We will keep pushing to end discrimination in access to higher education in NJ this year.
Senator Cory Booker and Newark Police Director Samuel DeMaio
Just before Cory Booker left Newark to become the state's newest U.S. Senator, he and Police Director Samuel DeMaio instituted two measures to increase safety and protect civil liberties. First, the Newark Police Department (NPD) now publishes data about its use of "stop-and-frisk" tactics each month. Second, the NPD stopped honoring "ICE holds" – warrantless requests from federal immigration authorities to hold people in custody. These new policies increase accountability, transparency, and public safety.
Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop
Mayor Fulop signed a city ordinance requiring certain Jersey City businesses to give paid sick leave to employees, the first such policy in NJ. The ACLU-NJ believes that a person can only fully exercise their rights when basic needs are met. This policy helps make Jersey City a place where civil liberties can thrive.
These are only a few of the NJ officials who have stood out this year for their commitment to civil liberties. Do you know a public official who has shown outstanding commitment to civil liberties in 2013? Share them on the ACLU-NJ's Facebook page.
Above all, we're grateful for you this Thanksgiving and every day. Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at the ACLU of New Jersey!
Last night Gov. Chris Christie announced his support for the New Jersey Tuition Equality Act, which would provide greater access to higher education opportunities for New Jersey students.
The following statement is from Udi Ofer, executive director of the ACLU of New Jersey:
"We are very encouraged by Governor Christie's words in support of tuition equality. His announcement should give a boost to lawmakers from both parties to pass the Tuition Equality Act and send it to the Governor for his signature as soon as possible.
The ACLU of New Jersey will continue to stand with our partners in the New Jersey Dream Act Coalition to ensure that the Tuition Equality Act becomes law. We must put an end to the unequal treatment of undocumented immigrants seeking to enroll in New Jersey's colleges and universities. Equal access to an education is an imperative for all students who call our state home, regardless of their immigration status."
NEWARK – Civil rights and faith leaders today applauded a groundbreaking policy change instituted by Newark Police Director Samuel DeMaio to decline immigration detainers issued to the department by U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE). Under the policy change, the Newark Police Department will no longer honor ICE’s requests to hand over to immigration authorities Newarkers arrested for offenses as minor as shoplifting.
"Law enforcement officials across the country have recognized that local police officers should not be in the business of federal immigration enforcement,” said Udi Ofer, executive director of the ACLU-NJ. "With this new policy in place, the Newark Police Department has made it clear that all residents, regardless of their immigration status, are safe to cooperate with the police. This policy ensures that if you’re a victim of a crime, or have witnessed a crime, you can contact the police without having to fear deportation. This will make all Newarkers safer"
The general order, which went into effect July 24, makes Newark the latest American city to adopt a policy forbidding its officers from complying with a detainer request from ICE. Chicago, New York and New Orleans have also adopted policies. Immigration detainers are nonbinding requests issued without a warrant by ICE asking law enforcement to hold someone in custody on the federal immigration enforcement agency’s behalf. ICE sends detainers without probable cause, the legal standard required for an arrest. However, these nonbinding requests sow suspicion in communities of immigrants by discouraging cooperation with police and force police departments to reprioritize their spending, threatening public safety as a whole.
"We are thrilled that Newark is standing in solidarity with immigrant families by rejecting all future collaboration with the federal deportation apparatus," said Emily Tucker, Staff Attorney at the Center for Popular Democracy. "Spending local tax dollars to take parents away from their children and workers away from their jobs is both morally wrong and bad for the economy. We hope the Newark policy will serve as a model for the rest of New Jersey, and for cities around the country who don't want local resources being spent to help ICE meet its arbitrary enforcement quotas."
The new policy means the city will not have to shoulder the additional cost of holding people without warrants at the behest of ICE. The order aims to protect public safety, as community members will not have to fear that cooperating with the police or reporting a crime will land them in immigration detention. The Newark Police Department will still report information to ICE upon the arrest of an individual, but nothing legally compels local law enforcement agencies to respond to requests to detain immigrants for ICE.
"We are heartened by this vital and healthy relationship between the Newark police and the many immigrant communities within the city of Newark,” said Father Tim Graff, Director of Human Concerns with the Archdiocese of Newark. “The directive signals the beginning of a collaborative effort to improve confidence in law enforcement among our parishioners.”
“This policy is absolutely essential in a city like Newark, where trust between local law enforcement and the community is crucial to protecting public safety,” said the Rev. Karl Esker of St. James Church in Newark and the head of Justice for Immigrants Campaign of the Newark Archdiocese. “We thank Director DeMaio for his leadership on this issue, and look forward to working as partners in strengthening the relationship between law enforcement and Newark’s immigrant community. In the last several years, the federal government has increasingly relied on local law enforcement to funnel immigrants into the detention and deportation dragnet through problematic information-sharing initiatives that devastate the stability of communities.”
Supporters of the policy include New Jersey Communities United, the Center for Popular Democracy, American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, American Friends Service Committee Immigrant Rights Program, Newark Archdiocese Department of Social Concerns, St. James Church, St. Lucy 's Church, St. Anne's Church, Church of the Transfiguration, and New Labor.
NEWARK – The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey (ACLU-NJ) is monitoring several pieces of legislation that are before the New Jersey Legislature today.
The following statements are from Udi Ofer, executive director of the ACLU of New Jersey, about those bills.
"For years, the NYPD conducted secret intelligence gathering activities in New Jersey targeted at Muslim community members who engaged in no wrongdoing. The New Jersey public was kept in the dark during these investigations, which targeted New Jersey residents based on their religious beliefs. Senate Bill No. 2311 will ensure that the NYPD and other law enforcement agencies will be unable to conduct their operations in our state without informing New Jersey law enforcement officials of their activities. While such a step is welcomed, it will not in-and-of-itself address the problem of NYPD operations in our state. At the very least, any bill that passes the state legislature should also include a requirement that the public be kept informed, in a manner that protects the integrity of legitimate law enforcement investigations, of any NYPD and other intelligence gathering operations in our state, particularly those operations that implicate First Amendment rights."
"The ACLU-NJ strongly supports the Tuition Equality Act. The time has come for New Jersey to end its unequal treatment of undocumented immigrants seeking to enroll in New Jersey’s colleges and universities. More than three decades ago, the United States Supreme Court, in Plyler v. Doe, held that undocumented students must be given equal access to a public school education. Yet in New Jersey today, undocumented students who graduate from our high schools and wish to attend our state colleges or universities are forced to pay much higher rates – in some cases more than twice as much – than their classmates for no other reason than their status as undocumented immigrants. This form of unequal access and unequal treatment must end. The New Jersey Legislature should ensure equal access to all students who call our state home, regardless of their immigration status, and pass A-4225."
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