The ACLU-NJ issues the following statement in reaction to New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s FY2021 proposed budget and budget address, delivered Aug. 25, 2020.

The following can be attributed to ACLU-NJ Executive Director Amol Sinha:

“This budget proposal comes during a pandemic that has led to unfathomable loss of life, worsened racial injustices, deepened economic inequities, and exposed the deep fissures in our social infrastructure that so often leave Black and brown people behind. It also comes at a time with sustained momentum around ensuring Black lives matter and scrutinizing our criminal legal system and its role in perpetuating systemic racism in our state and nation.

“The investments we make as a state must lead toward greater justice for all of us, and we are looking forward to working with the Governor and Legislature to approve a budget that’s inclusive, progressive, and forward-looking.

“Budgets offer insight into the values of an institution. Progressive, inclusive budgets provide opportunities for the most vulnerable, help repair harms of an inequitable society, and propel us into a more just future, ensuring no one is left behind. We are hopeful that those are the principles undergirding New Jersey’s budget proposal – the ACLU-NJ stands ready to make it so.”

Legal representation for immigrants in detention facing deportation:
“At a time when immigration detention can literally be a matter of life or death due to COVID-19 outbreaks, providing legal representation to people detained by ICE is vital to public health and human rights. We welcome the Murphy administration's continued support for the Detention and Deportation Initiative, a critical program that extends access to counsel to people detained in our immigration detention centers, and look forward to working with the Legislature to further expand funding for this essential program to save lives and keep families together.”

Economic relief and rental assistance:
"We must make sure all New Jerseyans can weather the current economic storm, including all immigrant communities, because when the bottom drops out for anyone, everyone is affected. When we know we cannot count on the federal government for much needed economic relief for the most vulnerable, including undocumented New Jerseyans, our state must step up with solutions.

“The budget proposal provides much-needed assistance with housing for New Jerseyans who need it most, including members of immigrant communities, which can provide a lifeline. We urge the Governor and Legislature to adopt this approach in all forms of economic relief, to ensure that we don’t leave New Jerseyans behind.”

Voter protection in 2020:
“The emergency funding to secure voting rights this election shows vital commitment to protecting the principles of democracy, and we as advocates will do our part to make sure that right is protected. At a time when the integrity of our democratic institutions is at stake, and our federal administration is intent on undermining voices of already-marginalized voters, our state must do all it can to protect the fundamental right to vote.”

Expungement implementation:
“While expungement reform implementation delays this summer have hindered people from building new futures at a particularly precarious time, the commitment to implementing it next year shows progress on criminal justice reforms.”

Marijuana legalization:
“The budget shortfall serves as a reminder that New Jerseyans are still waiting for the benefits to come with marijuana legalization, and that we have an opportunity this November to raise revenue, eliminate the cost of unnecessary and racially disparate arrests, and stop the individual economic damage a marijuana arrest inflicts. We need legalization, and we need to work now on legislation centering on racial and social justice to implement it as soon as possible.”