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RELEASE: Policy recommendations from Corzine panel would put NJ at forefront of immigration reform

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 30, 2009
CONTACT: Austin Guest, aguest@progressivestates.org, 212.680.3116 x 110

POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS FROM CORZINE PANEL WOULD PUT NJ AT FOREFRONT OF IMMIGRATION REFORM

With new report, NJ takes helm of national trend toward integrating immigrants rather than scapegoating them

JERSEY CITY, NJ — At a press conference this morning, Gov. Jon Corzine unveiled the results of his Blue Ribbon Panel on Immigration Policy, which included recommendations for the establishment of an Office on New Americans to help integrate immigrant families into the state’s culture and work force.  Policy experts at the Progressive States Network (PSN) were quick to praise the panel’s recommendations, which they placed within an emerging trend among state lawmakers to include working immigrant families into plans for shared economic growth.

According to PSN Interim Executive Director Nathan Newman, who authored a comprehensive 50-state analysis of state immigration policy last September, “The story that states are rushing out to punish undocumented immigrants is really a smoke screen. When you look at the facts, you see that more and more states are finding ways to integrate immigrants into a growing workforce and thriving small business community.  States like New Jersey realize that there is a far better economic future in working together than there is in dividing the population against itself.”

According to the report, entitled “The Anti-immigrant Movement that Failed,” only 11 percent of the nation’s undocumented immigrant population lives in states with “punitive” or “somewhat punitive” policies.  States like New Jersey, which are accustomed to large immigrant populations, tend to have the most inclusive policies, while states with smaller or newer immigrant populations tend to resort to punitive measures out of a lack of experience or knowledge of better options.

Said Newman, “The only states that are rushing to implement punitive policies are the ones who don’t know what to do with recent influxes of newcomers into their states. States like New Jersey, Illinois, and California, who have lived with immigrant families for a long time, recognize that integrating immigrants into their workforce is the only viable option to ensure their long term economic prosperity and moral dignity.”

PSN Immgration and Workers’ Rights Policy Specialist Caroline Fan cited New Jersey’s combination of large immigrant population and comparative economic prosperity as proof that immigrant families are necessary to a robust economy.  At 21 percent, New Jersey has the fifth highest immigrant population in the nation.  It also has the second-highest per capita income and the second highest median household income.

While Fan said that almost all of the policy recommendations would enhance New Jersey’s economic competitiveness, she singled out a few recommendations for particular praise. According to Fan, provisions to reorganize government agencies to provide language access and culturally competent services through a New Americans Office, , to extend in-state college tuition to all immigrant children, and to enforce wage and hour laws and payroll taxes for employers who exploit immigrant and US-born workers will put New Jersey in a strong position to build a work force capable of driving the state’s economic recovery. She also noted that these are budget-friendly changes that other states can also implement to retain and attract businesses seeking the most qualified and diversified workforce.

“Immigrant families work incredibly hard to ensure the success of their children and their communities.  In particular, in-state tuition can help keep talented New Jersey students in the state, increase school revenues, and stem the loss of $1.5 billion of tuition by students who leave the state for college elsewhere. By giving them the opportunity to achieve the benefits of higher education, there’s really no limit to the contributions that they can make to our society.”

Fan continued, “Immigrants have long been and will long continue to be the backbone of New Jersey’s economy and the economy of the entire country.  If we give these hard working families the tools they need to excel, we’ve got a bright future ahead of us.”   

Said Newman,  “The release of this report represents a landmark day on which New Jersey is shining a bright light into the future.  If Governor Corzine moves swiftly to enact the report’s recommendations, he will be setting a strong example for the rest of the country to move past the acrimonious and divisive debates that have distracted the country from working together to create a richer economy and society that represents our best values and protects all of our interests.”

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Progressive States Network is a national network of legislators and advocates that works to implement policies to benefit working families in all 50 states.

“The Anti-immigrant Movement that Failed,” by Nathan Newman and Caroline Fan, examines immigration policy trends across the states and in New Jersey in 2007-2008 and is available at http://www.progressivestates.org/content/902/2009-the-anti-immigrant-movement-that-failed.