Gov. Christie First Term Report CardImmigrant's RightsC+

Understanding the Plight of New Jersey’s Immigrants

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie

The Christie administration initially refused to enroll New Jersey in Secure Communities, the federal program that facilitates deportations through local law enforcement agencies, creating a divide between police departments and communities. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement eventually expanded Secure Communities to New Jersey in February 2012, but the administration’s position indicated an understanding of the harm the program could do to individuals, communities and public safety.27

Passing the Buck for Equal Access to Financial Aid Opportunities

Gov. Christie helped end one aspect of discrimination faced by college-bound immigrant students by signing the New Jersey Dream Act (S2479) into law on Dec. 19, 2013.28 The law now makes it possible for thousands of ambitious immigrant students to earn a college degree and give back to their communities.

Although Gov. Christie signed the New Jersey Dream Act, he fell short of supporting true equality for New Jersey’s Dreamers. When the State Senate passed the bill, Gov. Christie said he would not sign legislation that allowed undocumented students to apply for state financial aid, which Texas, California and New Mexico had already done in their tuition equality policies.29

Eligibility for aid is not a guarantee for aid — it simply means that when planning for college, students have enough doors open to them to make college a possibility. This opportunity would have made a huge difference in the lives of immigrant students and their families, who pay taxes just as everyone else does.30

Illegally Rejecting Students for State Aid

For years, the New Jersey Higher Education Student Assistance Authority (HESAA), a state agency, quietly practiced discrimination by denying financial aid to U.S. citizens because their parents were undocumented immigrants. When the ACLU-NJ first encountered this problem in 2011, the organization expected the Christie administration to recognize its actions were illegal and to change the policy. Instead, the ACLU-NJ was forced to sue, and only then did the policy improve.31

Withdrawing Medicaid from Lawful Immigrants, Unlawfully

The Christie administration put in place a new policy that discriminates against immigrants and denies them equal protection under the law when it comes to health care. In 2010, lawful permanent residents who had been receiving Medicaid benefits suddenly learned that their benefits would end because they had lived in the United States for fewer than five years.32 New Jersey law makes such immigrants eligible to receive Medicaid, but a change by the Christie administration disqualified them from receiving Medicaid.

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Related Content

27 Gottlieb, Amy, “Secure Communities’ deportation program breeds mistrust among immigrants,” The Star-Ledger, March 30, 2012,

28 Portnoy, Jenna, “Chris Christie trumpets signing of Dream Act in Union City.” The Star-Ledger, Jan. 7, 2014,

29 Hefler, Jan, and Hanna, Maddie, “Deal clears way for N.J. Dream Act,” Philadelphia Inquirer, Dec. 21, 2013,

30 McDonald, Terrance, “Report: Undocumented NJ Immigrants Pay Nearly $500M in State and Local Taxes,” New Jersey News Commons, July 10, 2013,

31 Shalom, Alexander, “Victory! New Jersey cannot discriminate against students who are children of immigrants,” ACLU Blog of Rights, Aug. 10, 2012,

32 Castro, Raymond, “Fact-checking Gov. Christie on Health Care Reform,” New Jersey Policy Perspective, July 12, 2012,

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