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Assembly Democrats: Give aid to students in US illegally

Assembly Democrats announced Wednesday that they plan to introduce a new bill to extend higher education opportunities to New Jersey’s undocumented students.

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Assemblyman Vinnie Prieto
“I want this to be done now.” — Assembly Speaker Vinnie Prieto (NJ Assembly Democrats via Facebook)

“We want them to get parity and equal opportunity to get grants to be able to make college affordable for them,” said Assembly Speaker Vinnie Prieto (D-Secaucus). “I want this to be done now because now is the time we have to move forward. Our future is our children.”

Under current law, undocumented immigrants now pay in-state tuition rates.

Undocumented students would also be eligible for every state financial aid program New Jersey has to offer.

Prieto said the measure does not call for additional funding for financial aid. It would reallocate existing funds.

It is unclear how many undocumented students would be eligible for state aid should the bill become law. Although Christie has twice used his veto power to reject what the bill would do, Prieto is hopeful the governor will reconsider.

“Right now the issue is not only affordability, it is also one of equality,” said bill co-sponsor Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D-Passaic).

Many undocumented immigrants say they simply cannot afford to attend college in New Jersey.

“If they’ve lived here, if America is their country and the only country they know, they should have access to the grants that are out there,” said bill co-sponsor Assemblyman Gordon Johnson (D-Teaneck).

The governor’s press office did not immediately respond to requests seeking comment.

This year’s state budget included a provision to extend state financial aid assistance to undocumented students who want to go to college in New Jersey. Gov. Chris Christie used his line-item veto power to take it out of the final spending plan.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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