Christie Signs New Jersey Dream Act into Law. What Does That Mean for Undocumented Immigrants?

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed the New Jersey Dream Act into law on January 7, which granted undocumented immigrants in-state tuition for public universities. Before the bill was signed into law, undocumented immigrants living in New Jersey had to pay the higher out-of-state tuition rate.

In-state tuition is substantially less expensive than out-of-state tuition. For instance, the in-state tuition for Rutgers is $10,700 annually, whereas out-of-state tuition runs $24,700 annually — a difference of $14,000.

It is estimated that some six percent of New Jersey’s population is undocumented immigrants.

At the signing, Christie hailed the bill as “an inspiration” and stated, “Our job, I believe as a government, is to give every one of these children, who we have already invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in, an opportunity to maximize that investment for their own benefit, for the benefit of their families, and for the benefit of our state and country.”

Some see Christie’s signing of the bill as a shot across the bow indicating that immigration reform will be a priority for him if he throws his hat into the ring for the 2016 presidential campaign.

Christie did battle with the New Jersey Legislature over the bill. He initially vetoed it when it also granted undocumented immigrants the right to receive state-funded financial aid. After the legislature stripped the bill of that provision Christie signed the revised Dream Act bill into law. Critics have said that without the financial aid component, many children of undocumented immigrants will still not be able to afford in-state tuition.

The New Jersey Dream Act only deals with in-state tuition and does not touch on the tentative legal status of the children of undocumented immigrants, which remains under the federal government’s purview.

A federal Dream Act has failed to pass, but President Obama used executive action in 2012 to grant tentative legal status under certain conditions to the children of undocumented immigrants in the United States.

If you have questions about New Jersey’s Dream Act or if you are not certain about your rights under president Obama’s executive order concerning the children of undocumented immigrants, please contact Lubiner, Schmidt & Palumbo. It is always best to consult with an experienced and qualified immigration law attorney with questions concerning immigration status and documentation.

Contact us online or call us at (888) 847-2529 to schedule an initial consultation.