The ACLU-NJ issues the following statement in reaction to New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s FY2022 proposed budget and address, delivered on Feb. 23, 2021.

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

This historic moment – COVID-19 and marijuana legalization:

“This budget proposal comes while we are still grappling with a pandemic that has put in relief the deep racial injustices and economic inequities in our state and country, and a day after the signing of cannabis legalization and decriminalization into law, a significant moment for racial and social justice that offers promise for greater opportunity among those hit hardest by discriminatory laws and overly aggressive policing. New Jersey stands at a juncture where we must make sure that we truly live up to the possibility of the moment, and those values must be cemented through a budget that prioritizes them.”

Marijuana legalization:

“A day after signing marijuana legalization and decriminalization into law, we have a pressing responsibility to protect the historic level of investment in social justice, and to ensure that possession arrests truly come to an end.

The ambitious tax and excise fee programs must fulfill their promise of strengthening the communities hit hardest by the discriminatory war on drugs – and in particular New Jersey’s Black communities – in meaningful ways that benefit the lives of residents, rather than enabling established players in the cannabis industry to exploit communities that have endured too much already. The ACLU-NJ and our partners in advocacy will advocate fiercely to ensure inclusion and equity in this industry, rather than a repetition of the inequities of prohibition.”

Marijuana expungement:

“With the signing of cannabis legalization and decriminalization, it's more important than ever that dedicated funding is allocated to ensure that expungements are easily accessible and free. New Jersey must commit to full implementation of expungement reform in this budget to help people clear their records and to stop the ongoing injustices of prohibition.”

Legal representation for immigrants in detention facing deportation:

“The increase in funding for the Detention and Deportation Defense Initiative, a critical program that extends access to counsel to people detained in New Jersey's immigration detention centers, will save lives and keep families together. At a time when immigration detention can literally be a matter of life and death due to COVID-19, legal representation for people in detention is vital, and the $8.2 million now in the budget will allow the program to make an even greater impact. We look forward to working with Governor Murphy and the Legislature to expand funding for this essential program even further to save lives and keep families together.”

Reproductive freedom:

“The expanded funding marked in the budget to guarantee reproductive health care services, including contraceptive, prenatal and delivery care, for community members currently ineligible to access these health services due to their immigration status, contributes to building a New Jersey that centers equity and prioritizes the health and wellbeing of everyone in our state.”

Economic relief and rental assistance:

“We urge New Jersey to include undocumented community members in desperately needed economic relief, as the economic well-being of all of New Jersey is intertwined. We must make sure all New Jerseyans can weather the current economic storm, because when the bottom drops out for anyone, everyone is affected.

“The budget 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 Legislature to adopt this approach in all forms of economic relief, and to ensure that we don’t leave New Jerseyans behind.”