Amidst all the controversy surrounding immigration reform, some officials are now finally stepping up their game in addressing the issues that are clearly important to the people that reside in their regions. One such recent example is that of Governor Jon Corzine (D-NJ). New Jersey has long been one of the nation’s more immigrant populated regions, with approximately 1.7 million immigrant residents as of 2006. Out of these, about 400,000 are undocumented. With such prominent figures, it is obvious to officials that taking a lead on immigration reform policy is a must for the Garden State.
After the U.S. Census reports came out in 2006, Governor Corzine took the initiative by establishing the Blue Ribbon Advisory Panel on Immigration Policy in 2007. Yesterday, the Panel submitted its report to the Governor, with a series of recommendations that would profoundly change the lives of many undocumented immigrants in the state. Among these recommendations are permitting the issuance of driver’s licenses to all immigrants and allowing all New Jersey immigrant youth residents to pay in-state rates for colleges and universities.
With each recommendation, the Panel provides a comprehensive explanation of the many benefits of supporting such policies. Additionally, the Panel also provides a recommendation for the Governor to establish a commission to oversee immigrant policies made in the government. The Commission on New Americans is intended to be a resource for New Jersey in helping immigrants adjust to new policies, as well as diversifying all of the state offices to facilitate immigrants using its’ services.
The Governor responded yesterday by supporting the Panel’s recommendation to allow all of the state’s immigrant youth to pay in-state tuition, but he stated that issues pertaining to driver’s licenses should be left to the federal government. According to Corzine, there should be a national policy on how to identify people, not state-by-state. Nonetheless, the Panel’s report makes it pretty clear to those on the Hill that immigration reform should once again become a priority for elected officials. The issues have not diminished, despite the staling of such policy changes.
Considering that 45.9 percent of New Jersey’s immigrants are from Latin America, this report should come as a celebration for our community. It should revive our hopes that change is truly on its way.
– Marianne Peterson