JERSEY CITY, NJ – Dozens of undocumented students and their supporters held a rally at the Jersey City hall last on Wednesday, demanding Governor Chris Christie implement a tuition equity bill pending in the State Legislature.
The bill would provide affordable and quality education for all, regardless of immigration status.
Meantime, the Jersey City council, led by Filipino-American Council-at-Large Rolando Lavarro introduced the “New Jersey Tuition Equity for Dreamers Campaign last night as well.
It’s a city resolution that would press the governor to pass the bill that would allow Dream Act-eligible students to qualify for in-state tuition fee and access to state financial aid in New Jersey Colleges and Universities.
Lavarro said, “Through no fault of their own, they’re undocumented, but they went to high school here and they played by the rules. They’re going off to higher education. These legislations would allow them to enjoy in-state tuition rates in the same benefits and privileges as other Americans so that they too can claim the American Dream.”
Maria — who requested not to reveal her identity on camera, is a dreamer.
The 20-year-old undocumented Filipino graduated high school two years ago and is now studying in a community college to become a social worker.
When she was only seven years old, her parents brought her to America to seek a better life.
In high school, a school program required her to travel out of state. For reasons she could not understand at that time, her parents would not allow her to go.
She later found out that she’s undocumented and her parents were afraid she could get caught and get deported.
Maria said, “I was hit with that problem, I really just felt I was limited, I was stuck, and when everyone else was applying for colleges, I didn’t. I applied to one but they rejected me because I don’t have the correct documents and I didn’t understand what was going on so I couldn’t ask anybody.”
Maria has been approved for President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
She can now work legally in the U.S. and is no longer afraid of getting deported for two years, but she still does not qualify for in-state tuition rates or financial aids.
Maria said, “This is something that we want, this is something that we need, this is something that’s going to benefit not only us but the United States, the growth of the U.S., and our future – anyone’s future is in the hands of our youth.”
Maria dreams to become an American citizen in the near future.
“For one, this has been my home for almost 12 to 13 years, I’ve done basically everything that most citizens could do. Sometimes I do honestly feel I’ve done more, I’m in this campaign and fight for what I believe is right for undocumented students,” said Maria.