100+ Educators Urge New Jersey Leadership to Prioritize COVID-19 Economic Relief for Excluded Immigrant Families 

100+ Educators Urge New Jersey Leadership to Prioritize COVID-19 Economic Relief for Excluded Immigrant Families 


As more and more schools debate in-person class instruction, teachers and educators urge Governor Murphy to ensure all residents are included in COVID-19 relief. Educators are pointing to the impact of income relief on ensuring all children and students regardless of their status or their parents’ status are able to continue their education without disruption.


New Jersey – Tuesday, February 9th, 2021 — Today, more than one hundred educators across New Jersey sent an open letter to state legislative leaders and Governor Murphy urging immediate action to address the nearly half-million immigrant New Jerseyans who have been left behind in virtually every form of COVID-19 aid at both the federal and state levels. For 11 months, immigrant communities have been without access to state and federal relief programs.


The more than 100 signatories include primary, secondary, and higher education teachers and educators spanning the state from North, South, and Central New Jersey. The letter highlights the critical and urgent need for economic relief to address the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on immigrant New Jerseyans, underscoring the importance of reducing stress and increasing access to education for students who are either immigrants themselves or children of immigrants. Given the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on immigrant communities as well as the under-representation of communities of color in vaccine distribution, New Jersey’s responsibility to its immigrant communities is even more pressing.


Despite receiving no pandemic relief from the state or federal governments, annually New Jersey’s undocumented immigrants pay $1.1. billion in federal taxes and $600 million in state and local taxes and have contributed $1.3 billion to the unemployment insurance fund over the past ten years, but are ineligible for unemployment insurance. Lack of access to pandemic relief and safety net programs have exacerbated existing economic security and health risks for undocumented New Jerseyans and their families.


New Jersey is a state of immigrants with a sizable population–nearly half a million residents– who are excluded from COVID-19 relief, which has left parents, children, and entire families without any source of income or relief during an unprecedented pandemic.


Educators shared the following statements:


“I have personally seen how excluding immigrants and their kids from COVID relief has unjustly affected my students. One student fell behind on his work completion as he took turns with his siblings caring for his mother who had major symptoms of COVID, and his emotional well being suffered knowing that both of his parents were unable to work and the family was without income for an extended period of time,” said Adriana Gonzalez, Special Education Teacher.


“As a faculty member at Montclair State University, a Hispanic-serving institution, I feel a particular responsibility to stand up for the undocumented community, which includes my students and their families. My students work hard both in and outside of the classroom, often balancing their college careers with jobs and care for family members. This is an enormous responsibility for young people under any circumstances, but during this pandemic I have seen my students’ stress levels go through the roof. I am begging NJ state officials to take care of my students. They need you,” said Jessica Brater, Assistant Professor, Montclair State University


“Schools have implemented technology in unprecedented ways in an effort to sustain learning during the pandemic, but students without the appropriate technological infrastructure are being left behind. Our immigrant students are often victims of this digital divide. This issue is exacerbated by the fact that, in many cases, our immigrant students are not receiving the personnel support they would have in normal school years. We have relied on many services provided by immigrants throughout the pandemic. We have appropriately called these frontline workers heros. It’s time to recognize them as such and provide relief for immigrant communities,” said Mario De Santis, Middle/High School Teacher, Collingswood Public Schools


“As an elementary school teacher, I seek to support my students both academically and personally. I’ve witnessed firsthand the impact of the pandemic on my students, and it’s heartbreaking to see their families left out of stimulus benefits. When you see kids and their families being taken care of, you see a difference in the classroom setting. If we want our students to thrive, we need to prioritize support for their families as well,” said Lauren Sastre, Teacher, North Bergen School District 


“Many adult ESL students have been forced to drop out of classes due to the loss of jobs, the need to care for family members with COVID-19, and the complete lack of any relief of any kind from the federal government. Many who remain are low paid essential workers who struggle to provide adequate internet access for the education of themselves and their children. All of these families deserve respect and relief,” said Ellen Whitt, ESL Instructor at Middlesex County College


The letter from educators to New Jersey leadership is shared below.


February 9th, 2021


Hon. Philip D. Murphy


225 W. State Street

Trenton, NJ 08625


Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney

125 W State Street

Trenton, NJ 08625


Assembly Speaker Craig J. Coughlin

125 W State Street

Trenton, NJ 08625


Dear Governor Murphy, Senate President Sweeney and Speaker Coughlin:


As concerned educators in the state of New Jersey, we urge you to provide economic relief to those in our community who are some of those hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic: undocumented immigrants and their families who have been excluded from most federal and state relief programs.


The influence of the pandemic has produced a stark difference in the classroom, particularly for children with undocumented parents. The widespread shift to online learning during this pandemic reinforces the role of families in supporting students’ learning. Yet, Rutgers University School of Management and Labor Relations and New Jersey Policy Perspective researchers conducted a study in April of 2020 that estimates 125,086 undocumented immigrants in New Jersey, or one in four of the working-age population, work in industries hardest hit by the pandemic. Thus, children with undocumented parents, who now depend more heavily on their families for quality education, are at a disadvantage when their parents have a harder time supporting them. In our virtual classroom, we see that many of these children lack access to a reliable computer, a steady internet connection, and a quiet place to study. Moreover, children who are English Language Learners struggle with online learning as daily contact with peers and teachers is instrumental to learning a new language. In our physical classrooms, children with undocumented parents may have a harder time concentrating in school as their livelihoods are endangered by the pandemic.


The New Jersey Constitution states, “the Legislature shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of free public schools for the instruction of all children in the state.”  As educators, we fully affirm our students’ right to quality education, but know that our students cannot fully avail themselves of the opportunity to learn with the stress of the pandemic weighing so heavily on their families. One way to relieve the burden is to ensure that undocumented and mixed-status families are included in state-funded COVID-19 relief programs. The fact that undocumented immigrants pay $600 million in state and local taxes and $1 billion in federal taxes each year only makes a stronger case for the great state of New Jersey to provide for its community members who bolster the state’s economy.


We firmly believe that New Jersey cannot fully recover without including all New Jerseyans, regardless of immigration status, in relief efforts.  We thank you for your attention and consideration for this urgent matter.




Elizabeth Parents and Students Care, Elizabeth, NJ

Latino Action Network, Scotch Plains, NJ

Latino Institute, Inc., Lakehurst, NJ


Palestinian American Community Center, Clifton, NJ

Abdul-Qawwee Shabazz, ESL/ELL Teacher

Jersey City Community Charter School, Jersey City, NJ

Adriana Gonzalez, Special Education Teacher

Alexis L. Cherry, Franklin High School, Eatontown, NJ

Alison Grill, College Counselor, Summit Public Schools, Basking Ridge, NJ

Alyxandra Cucinotta, ESL/BIL Teacher, Franklin Township, Somerset, NJ

Amanda Potter, Curator of Education and Interpretation, Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers University, Highland Park, NJ

Aminah Keith, 5th Grade Math Teacher, Kipp New Jersey, Orange, NJ

Ana Pairet, Associate Professor, Rutgers University-New Brunswick, Highland Park, NJ

Anastasia Mann, Lecturer in Public and International Affairs, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ

Andreali Dharampaul-Bajnath, Dean of Enrichment, Cresthaven Academy Charter School, Plainfield, NJ

Anel V. Suriel, Teaching Assistant, Rutgers Graduate School of Education            East Brunswick, NJ

Anne L. Kelterborn       , English Teacher, Communications High School, Red Bank, NJ

Argenis J. Santana, Teacher, Passaic Board of EducationBelleville, NJ

Benimapi Coulibaly, Teacher, NJEA, East Orange, NJ

Caia Schlessinger, Teacher, NJTESOL/NJBE & Highland Park Public Schools, Highland Park, NJ

Damien Betances, School Counselor, Summit High School, West Orange, NJ

Dan Battey, Professor, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ

Daniel Bento, Physical Education Teacher, Cresthaven Academy Charter, Long Branch, NJ

Diana Rossani, Teacher, Franklin High School, Maple Shade, NJ

Donnetta L. Beatty, Supervisor of Teaching and Learning and Supervisor of ELL

Black Horse, Pike Regional School District, Woodbury Heights, NJ

Elizabeth J. Franks. Consultant, Language & Literacy Associates for Multilingual & Multicultural Education  Bradley Beach, NJ

Elizabeth Levy Paluck, Professor, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ

Ellen Whitt, ESL Instructor, Middlesex County College, Highland Park, NJ

Ericka Alfaro, 5th Grade History Teacher, Team Academy Charter School, Newark, NJ

Erin K. Kelly, Assistant Teaching Professor, Rutgers, Highland Park, NJ

Esther Ticona, Franklin High School, Livingston, NJ

Evelin J. Ramon Ramon, Spanish Teacher, Franklin Township Public Schools, Franklin Township, NJ

Farhanah Mohamad, Special Education Teacher, Cresthaven Academy Charter School, Plainfield, NJ

Gina Frazier, Special Education Teacher, Woodbridge Township School District, Port Reading, NJ

Glendy Nunez Tavera, Teacher, Claremont Elementary School, South Brunswick, NJ

Heike Domine, 6th Grade Social Studies Teacher, TEAM Academy, Linden, NJ

Hendrik Hartog, Class of 1921 Bicentennial Professor in the History of American Law and Liberty, emeritus, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ

Holly D’Agostino, 1st Grade Teacher, Cresthaven Academy, Piscataway, NJ

Hope Bera, Teacher, Cresthaven Academy Charter School, Bound Brook, NJ

Janet Adekola, School Nurse, Cresthaven Academy, Plainfield, NJ

Jessica Brater, Assistant Professor, Montclair State University, Bloomfield, NJ

Jessica Hunsdon, Program Coordinator, Rutgers University, Highland Park, NJ

Johnny Vega, General Education Teacher, Cresthaven Academy Charter School, Belleville, NJ

Jose Espinal, 6th & 7th Grade Bilingual Social Studies. Dual Language School

Elizabeth, NJ

Judith Guillen, Teacher, Franklin Township, Kearny, NJ

Justin Miller, Supervisor of Social Studies and World Languages, Franklin Township Public Schools, Scotch Plains, NJ

Karen Jones, English Teacher, Jersey City Board of Education, Hillside, NJ

Kathleen Fernandez, Executive Director, NJTESOL/NJBE, Haddonfield, NJ

Keith Perkins, ESL, Bilingual, World Language Supervisor, Irvington Public Schools

Scotch Plains, NJ

Kenneth Figgs, Education Consultant/Mentor/Coach, NJPSA/FEA, Delanco, NJ

LaFleur Stephens-Dougan, Assistant Professor, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ

Lauren Sastre, Teacher, North Bergen Board of Education, North Bergen, NJ\

Luisa Car, Teacher, Kipp NJ, North Bergen, NJ

  1. Colleen Grazioso, Finance Manager, Christ Church Nursery School, Millburn, NJ

Malinda Loflin, Supervisor Special Education, Passaic Board of Education, Montclair, NJ

Margaret Churchill, President, NJTESOL/NJBE, Secaucus, NJ

Margie Muir Shylock, Teacher, NJEA, Princeton, NJ

Maria Sfondouris, Teacher, Franklin High School, Somerset, NJ

Marian Ahn Thorpe, Postdoctoral Research Associate and Lecturer, Princeton University

Princeton, NJ

Maribel Batista, Teacher, Perth Amboy Public Schools, Perth Amboy, NJ

Marina Feldman, Teaching Assistant, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ

Mario DeSantis, Middle/High School Teacher, Collingswood Public Schools, Glassboro, NJ

Marquita Smith Teacher, Jersey City Public Schools, Avenel, NJ

Mary Curran, Professor of Practice Language Education, Rutgers University Highland Park, NJ

Megan Brower, Special Education Teacher, Cresthaven Academy

Plainfield, NJ

Melinda Rosso, Teacher, Franklin Township Public Schools, Somerset, NJ

Melissa Lane, Class of 1943 Professor of Politics, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ

Melissa Vega, Bilingual Teacher, New Brunswick Public Schools, New Brunswick, NJ

Michael Abram Strauss, Professor, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ

Monica Del Rosario, ESL Teacher, Roxbury Public Schools, Roxbury, NJ

Monica Villafuerte, Executive Director/Founding Principal, Cresthaven Academy Charter School, Warren, NJ

Natalie Thom, Bilingual Teacher, Millville Public Schools, Millville, NJ

Patricia O’Gorman, School Nurse, Millburn School District, West Orange, NJ

Randi Mandelbaum, Distinguished Clinical Professor of Law, Rutgers Law School

Newark, NJ

Ravit Golan Duncan, Professor, Rutgers GSE, New Brunswick, NJ

Rebecca Witt, Music Teacher, Cresthaven Academy Charter School, Plainfield, NJ

Robert Goldston, Professor, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ

Rosa Rivera, Spanish Teacher, Franklin High School, Somerset, NJ

Rosa Salinas, Teacher, Scotch Plains Fanwood Schools, Scotch Plains, NJ

Saony Camilo, Teacher, Bayonne Board of Education, Bayonne, NJ

Sasha Taner, Program Director and Research Coordinator, Rutgers University

Brick, NJ

Sean Thom, Teacher 1, NJDOC, Millville, NJ

Shamus Khan, Professor of Sociology & American Studies         Princeton University,

Princeton, NJ

Tatiana Pereira, Spanish Middle School Teacher, Franklin Middle School-Hamilton Street Campus, Somerset, NJ

Teresa Vivar, Executive Director, Lazos America Unida, New Brunswick, NJ

Tuli Roy-Kirwan, Instructional Aide, Cresthaven Academy Charter School, West Orange, NJ

Vanessa Smith, Special Education Teacher, Cresthaven Academy Charter School Plainfield, NJ

Vitali Khalpukov, Spanish Teacher, MGLU, Bridgewater, NJ

Alamelu Sundaram Walters, Cherry Hill, NJ

Alberto Bruzos, Princeton, NJ

Ana Pazmino, Somerset, NJ

Anita Young, Elmwood Park, NJ

Brianna McClave, Elizabeth, NJ

Catherine Pena, Princeton, NJ

Charlotte Hogan, Parsippany, NJ

Christiane Fellbaum, Princeton, NJ

Christina Levin, Lawrence, NJ

Colleen Asper, Princeton, NJ

Dr. Clara Haignere, Lawrence Township, NJ

Elliott Lieb, Princeton, NJ

Gwen Kirsten, Eatontown, NJ

Hana Prashker   , North Haledon, NJ

Heather Craven, Maplewood, NJ

Janice Fine, Princeton, NJ

Janice Kreinick Gallagher, Newark, NJ

Judy H. Manton, Tenafly, NJ

Julianna Ezzo, Kendall Park, NJ

Karen Emmerich, Princeton, NJ

Kirstin Valdez Quade, Princeton, NJ

Maria Restrepo, Morristown, NJ

Michelle Alphe, New Brunswick, NJ

Monica Youn, Princeton, NJ

Nancy Coffin, Princeton, NJ

Patty Manhart, Princeton, NJ

Paula Viera, Perth Amboy, NJ

Pedro Meira Monteiro, Princeton, NJ

Shannon Chase-Nice, Monroe, NJ

Stephani Robinson-Mayes, Newark, NJ

Susan Sugarman, Princeton, NJ

Susana Rodriguez, Englewood Cliffs, NJ

Tali Mendelberg, Skillman, NJ

Trineice Robinson-Martin, Lawrenceville, NJ

William Colon, Lakehurst, NJ

William Gleason, Princeton, NJ

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