Immigrant advocacy groups are disappointed that Gov. Phil Murphy's revised 2021 budget proposal doesn’t include direct economic aid to immigrants who aren’t eligible for federal stimulus payments or unemployment benefits because they’re not legal residents.

The groups plan weekly actions and rallies through September to press the Legislature to include the funding in the nine-month state budget that takes effect Oct. 1.

“There are almost a half a million undocumented immigrants and more than 100,000 U.S. citizen children who’ve been left behind almost completely by aid during the pandemic,” said Sara Cullinane, director of Make the Road New Jersey.

“This means that families across our state are at nearly six months without a paycheck, without a stimulus check, without unemployment or food stamps,” Cullinane said. “We’re in a real humanitarian crisis at this point, so we were extremely disappointed to see that the state did not choose to fund excluded workers and immigrant families in its upcoming budget.”

Gov. Phil Murphy is proposing to spend $32.4 billion between October and June. The budget is balanced in part through $4 billion in borrowing, $1 billion in tax increases and $1.25 billion in spending cuts.

“We’ve kept the legal services piece in place. We’ve kept a lot in place for our immigrant brothers and sisters. This is a tough budget. I don’t know how else to say it,” Murphy said. “… Are we open to trying to find money for those very needed and reasonable demands? Absolutely. I just can’t promise it.”

Cullinane said Murphy “got the revenue raisers right” in proposing to increase taxes on income over $1 million and businesses.

“We think that’s really critically important, and we’ve been advocating for that as well,” Cullinane said. “But immigrant families should not be left behind. This is a state of immigrants. It’s like leaving all of Hudson County behind from aid when you leave immigrants and their children out of these programs.”

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Cullinane said one direct stimulus payment would cost around $50 million. The groups are also calling for $600 weekly unemployment payments to immigrants in the country without authorization who have lost their jobs. That population paid $1.2 billion into the system over 10 years but cannot receive benefits, she said.

Legislation (S2480/A4171) was proposed in May that would appropriate $35 million for one-time payments of up to $1,000 to immigrants without authorization to be in the country who have paid income taxes in 2018 or 2019, using an individual tax identification number. The bill has 19 sponsors in the Senate.

California, Illinois, Washington and other jurisdictions are providing support, Cullinane said.

“It’s really time for New Jersey to act,” she said. “We’re one of the hardest-hit states with one of the most substantial immigrant populations. And this is about our immigrant brothers and sisters, but it’s also about our whole state being able to recover. We can’t leave behind hundreds of thousands, half a million plus people, and think that we’re all going to be able to stay healthy and to survive.”

Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at

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