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Gill, Vitale & Ruiz Bill Calls for Protection of Undocumented Students in New Jersey

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School Districts and Colleges Must Continue to Serve As Safe Zones; Student, Family & Staff Information Must Be Protected

TRENTON – A measure sponsored by Senators Nia H. Gill, Joseph F. Vitale and M. Teresa Ruiz calling for the continued protection of undocumented students and families in New Jersey was approved today by the state Senate. The Senate Concurrent Resolution expresses the Legislature’s intent that school districts and public institutions of higher education continue to act as safe zones, and that they protect the identities and data related to undocumented students, families and others who could be adversely affected by future federal policies or executive action resulting in the collection of personal information.

 “Residents are fearful and rightfully concerned about the recent executive orders signed by the President and the potential for additional policies targeting immigrant communities. It is our responsibility as legislators to protect our residents and to make sure our schools and college campuses are safe havens for students and families,” said Senator Gill (D-Essex/Passaic). “Despite any action taken on the federal level, it should continue to be the policy of our state’s education institutions to serve as safe zones and resource centers for residents and to keep information in its possession confidential.”

“All children have a right to an education regardless of their immigration status, and our classrooms should be safe places for young people to grow and learn,” said Senator Ruiz, chair of the Senate Education Committee. “There should be an effort on all school campuses, from our pre-schools to our colleges, to protect the wellbeing of students, families and educators. This resolution reinforces that, as a state, this is our intent.”

“Our policies are a reflection of our values. New Jersey has a long history of supporting those seeking to escape hardship and deprivation to find a better life for themselves and their children, and we’ve benefited from the contributions immigrants have made to the state,” said Senator Vitale (D-Middlesex). “This is about ensuring the protection of children and young people living in New Jersey, many of which have lived here their entire lives, and reassuring families that we will not allow them to be targeted.”

The senators’ call comes at a time of extreme concern amongst undocumented students and families about their security in the wake of the presidential election and recent actions cracking down on immigration and travel to the United States, as well as fears about the potential for action by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

While current ICE policy characterizes school districts and colleges and universities as “sensitive locations,” places where, in the normal course, enforcement actions should not occur unless extraordinary circumstances exist, the heightened concern and fear has resulted in school districts and institutions of higher education across the United States adopting resolutions and policies reaffirming their intent to continue to serve as safe zones and to protect student information.

The Senate Concurrent Resolution (SCR-134) was approved in the Senate by a vote of 22-10. Copies of the resolution will be sent to the Governor, the State Board and Commissioner of Education, the board of education of each school district, the Secretary of Higher Education, and the governing board of each public institution of higher education.