Gov Murphy’s First Year Brings Groundbreaking Change for Immigrant Communities, But Progress on Key Driver’s License Bill Lags
(Elizabeth, NJ): In advance of Gov. Murphy’s State of the State address, Erika Martinez of Make the Road New Jersey issued the following statement:
“Gov. Murphy’s first year in office has dramatically transformed New Jersey into a more fair and welcoming state for immigrants, but without progress on expanding access to drivers licenses, New Jersey has yet to fulfill its promise to protect our families and ensure safety for all residents. As a Dreamer, I was able to start college this Fall thanks to the new financial aid law for Dreamers. If I am detained by immigration, I can now fight my case with a publicly funded lawyer by my side. And I no longer have to fear that local police will ask my immigration status or turn me over to ICE. But without access to a driver’s license, my family’s future is still uncertain, and New Jersey misses on improving road safety and new revenue from nearly a half million newly eligible drivers. We call on our state legislature and Gov. Murphy to take action on expanding access to drivers’ licenses now.”
Here are some highlights from the past year:
In May, Governor Murphy signed legislation sponsored by Senators Teresa Ruiz and Sandra Cunningham, and Assemblyman Gary Schaer that expands access to state financial aid to New Jersey’s undocumented students and DACA recipients, breaking down barriers to higher education for thousands of immigrant youth state-wide.
In June, the state FY2019 budget passed with $2.1 million for legal defense of detained immigrants facing deportation from Gov. Phil Murphy – the largest initial investment towards universal representation for immigrant detainees of any state in the nation.
At the same time, as Trump administration’s family separation policy created a major humanitarian crisis at the border, the state of New Jersey divested public funds from some private immigration prisons.
In August, a federal judge in Texas denied the Trump administration’s request to end the DACA program after the state of New Jersey intervened, preserving this key protection from deportation for the more than 53,000 DACA eligible young people who call New Jersey home.
In November, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal issued a groundbreaking “Immigrant Trust” directive to ensure New Jersey law enforcement do not aid in the deportation of immigrants and to restore trust between law enforcement and immigrant communities. The Directive is one of the most wide-reaching in the country and will ensure due process and fairness for immigrant communities and bolster public safety.