By Dari Kotzker
She called the news conference to promote tuition equality for undocumented immigrants, but Barbara Buono immediately targeted Chris Christie. She accused him of distracting from the real issues.
“Earlier last week or earlier whenever it was, this week the governor manufactured an attack on his appearance, and let just me say this to Chris. This is a message to Chris Christie, I’ve got 99 problems with you, but your weight ain’t one,” Buono said.
That said, Buono moved on, urging the governor to sign a bill that would allow undocumented students living in New Jersey to be allowed to pay in-state tuition at state colleges and universities. Without proper documentation, they can’t legally work or attend college. The legislation passed the Senate Budget Committee, then stalled. Buono criticized Christie for threatening to veto this bill.
“We found that when the governor doesn’t want to take a stand on an issue, he just ducks and run. We’re calling on him to come on, step up to plate, make a stand, let’s hear what you have to say and that would have an impact,” Buono said.
“We’re already behind. New York already has this legislation. Gov. Rick Perry signed it in Texas, why won’t Gov. Christie be able to take a stance on this and support fairness?” asked New Jersey United Students’ Tuition Equity for Dreamers Campaign Manger Giancarlo Tello.
Christie’s campaign said the governor did promise to veto bills like this and said illegal immigration is a federal issue at this point.
Last year president Obama signed an executive order allowing undocumented immigrants to receive their working papers if they met certain criteria. That’s the first step to getting a driver’s license or Social Security card. The speakers today said they’re pleased with the federal program, but it’s still not enough.
“There’s probably four times, five times the amount of children or young men and women in the state of New Jersey that are eligible to do so but are scared to come out of the shadows. And that’s the other reason why we would open up the door to give these kids a fair opportunity to come out and continue their education and do something productive and become productive,” said SEIU NJ State Council Executive Director Lizette Delgado-Polanco.
One of the 13,000 New Jersey students who applied for the federal program spoke today about the frustration of not being able to attend a state school.
“You’ve been told your whole life, work hard, do the right thing, don’t beak the law and then you’ll be able to get somewhere. But by the end of the day, you feel like there’s a glass ceiling, that no matter how hard you work, you can’t get over it if you don’t have a Social Security number, if you don’t have that legalization,” said Tello.
Even those who are part of the Obama program still have to pay out-of-state tuition, which usually costs three times as much as in-state tuition. Buono’s campaign also released a web video to support the initiative.