Murphy’s $2.1M to fight deportations not enough, advocates say
TRENTON — in his first budget proposal, Gov. Phil Murphy has included funding for financial and legal aid for undocumented immigrants.
Murphy has included $2.1 million to help defray legal costs for immigrants facing deportation, an amount which at least one group called "a very important and good idea," although not nearly enough to help all the people in New Jersey who are in the country illegally.
Gordon MacInnes, president of the progressive New Jersey Policy Perspective, said the $2.1 million allocated by Murphy can be used to counter changes in the country's immigration policy implemented by President Donald Trump.
"The world has changed on us since January 2017 and the Trump administration has taken up a stance that is very harmful to thousands of New Jersey residents who have lived here for years, who have raised their families here, who are working here, and now they're subject to what is a relentless effort at deporting people," he said.
Murphy's budget has also come under fire from both sides of the aisle for his proposal to provide state Tuition Aid Grants to unauthorized immigrants. Originally expected to cost the state around $4.5 million, new numbers suggest an increase in people eligible for the grants would mean the need for another half million dollars.
MacInnes said whether it is for school or legal funding, the money is important to help a portion of the population that needs it.
"There are people who say that about kids who were brought here when they were 3, had no choice, they went to our public schools and now they'd like to go to our colleges," he said. "They performed well, and those same people say 'oh gee we shouldn't help them financially to do what all their classmates are able to do, which is to qualify for aid.'"
Some estimates have put the number of unauthorized immigrants around the state at around 500,000, according to MacInnes, who called it a "pretty good chunk of our total population." And while the $2.1 million would help, he said his group has estimated that it would probably cost closer to $15 to $17 million to cover the legal costs for people incarcerated and facing deportation.
MacInness also noted that public defenders are not an option for people facing deportation, but having a lawyer can make all the difference in determining their future.
"If you're represented by a lawyer, your chances of remaining in the United States increase noticeably," he said. "If you have a lawyer 60 percent of those cases result in the undocumented person begin allowed to stay in the country. If you don't have a lawyer, 95 percent of you are going to be deported."
While there are undocumented immigrants who are able to afford an attorney to handle their deportation proceedings, and groups like the American Friends Service Committee to help some who can't, MacInnes said the money the governor allotted would at least help to fill the gap.
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