Commentary By: Savannah Scarborough, Follow South Jersey Intern
New Jersey has the second-largest immigrant population in the nation. With the ongoing migrant crisis in and around New York, residents have garnered many opinions and questions about the immigration status in their state. Here is what you need to know about New Jersey’s most prevalent policies regarding immigration.
According to the American Immigration Council, one in four New Jersey residents are immigrants; in 2018, two million immigrants comprised 23 percent of the state’s population. Further gathered from that data found the top countries immigrants traveled from include: India (13%), Dominican Republic (10%), Mexico (5%), Ecuador (4%), and the Philippines (4%) .
On January 18, Governor Phil Murphy recently expanded eligibility for NJ Family Care Coverage. Any child 19 and under whose families meet the income eligibility requirements can now obtain Medicaid coverage, despite immigration status.
“No parent should be left to choose between putting food on the table or taking their child to the doctor. I applaud Governor Murphy’s efforts to ensure all New Jersey children have access to healthcare,” said Senate Majority Leader Teresa Ruiz. “Expanding Medicaid coverage to children regardless of status will ensure they are able to get the care they need when they need it the most.”
NJ Family Care Coverage is New Jersey’s publicly funded healthcare system that provides Medicaid coverage and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Governor Murphy’s decision to expand eligibility is estimated to add to an additional 16,000 children throughout New Jersey.
In addition to the Murphy Administration, the State of New Jersey Attorney General Matthew J. Plankin and his office stated they have always strived to make New Jersey a welcoming place for immigrants.
Over the last several years, the Attorney State General’s Office has issued the Immigrant Trust Directive and prohibited “287(g) agreements,” cracked down on “notario” fraud, defended the Deferred Action for Children Arrivals (DACA) against Texas, and has pushed back against anti-immigration policies.
Issued in November 2018, The Immigrant Trust Directive wished to build friendly relations between law enforcement and New Jersey’s immigrant residents, has limited the amount and type of information and assistance law enforcement can provide to federal immigration authorities like ICE, and emphasizes that local authorities are responsible for enforcement of criminal law, not federal. The incentive of this directive aims to make immigrants feel welcome to report wrongdoings they witness or know of in the state without fear of being turned into federal authorities.
Furthermore, in September 2019, the Attorney State General’s Office issued a statewide order prohibiting any “287(g) agreement.” Halting any “287(g) agreement” behavior prohibits ICE from preventing local law enforcement officers in New Jersey from carrying out civil immigration duties. Hence, there is an unclear line between federal immigration authorities and local law enforcement.
To further emphasize the state’s support towards immigrants, the Attorney State General’s Office cracked down on businesses’ “notario” fraud which offers immigration services that businesses are not legally
allowed to give. In November 2018, the state acknowledged two dozen businesses that allowed a notary public to take advantage of struggling Spanish-speaking immigrant residents who were coerced into believing they were securing the services of an attorney for immigration laws and procedures but had been tricked.
In addition to the various initiatives to help immigrants mentioned above, in the Spring of 2018, New Jersey won a crucial legal battle against Texas and six other states wishing to terminate the DACA program. The DACA program provides legal protection, protection from deportation, and work permits for over 700,000 Dreamers (undocumented students/youth), 17,000 of which lived in New Jersey. Certain states, specifically Texas, were unhappy with DACA, especially the money it took from taxpayer dollars, which led to the states suing the federal government but evidently losing the case.
Lastly, New Jersey has consistently pushed back on several federal attempts to support anti-immigration policies to show support for immigration. Most notably, according to the State of New Jersey Department of Law & Public Safety, the state fought against the indefinite detention of immigrant children, placing a citizenship question on the 2020 Census, separating families in detention, and constructing a wall on the Southern border without Congressional approval.
Immigrants living in New Jersey contribute to the state in numerous ways. Data from the American Immigration Council showed that in 2018, immigrant residents made up just over two-fifths of all healthcare support workers, nearly half of all computer and math sciences workers, and half of the production employees. According to the same data, immigrant-led households in the state paid $19.7 billion in federal taxes and $9.5 billion in state and local taxes. Undocumented immigrants paid $1.1 billion in federal taxes and $604.3 million in state and local taxes.
With this contribution, immigrant families and individuals find their value in New Jersey. Recently, on October 31, 2022, immigrants gathered in New Jersey for National Immigration Day to celebrate their contribution to the state. This gathering was organized by the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice (NJAIJ), which fights for policies to empower and protect immigrants.
The three main concerns the NAJAIJ currently has are to pass the Values Act, the New Jersey Language Access Bill, and the Data Disagression Bill, all of which New Jersey State governments are listening to and are considering.
For more about the most recent statistics on immigrants in New Jersey, visit
To learn more about the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice, visit https://www.njimmigrantjustice.org/.
To learn more and apply for NJ Family Care, visit https://njfamilycare.dhs.state.nj.us/.
- What’s Good In South Jersey? The Water – With Isaiah Showell
- Atlantic County To Offer Free Flu Vaccines In October
- What’s Good In South Jersey? Summer Youth Employment Celebration – With Isaiah Showell
Follow South Jersey provides local journalism which highlights our diverse communities; fosters transparency through robust, localized, and vital reporting that holds leaders and institutions accountable; addresses critical information needs; supports people in navigating civic life; and equips people with the information necessary to partake in effective community engagement. If there is a story or event you think we should cover, please send your tips to email@example.com with “NEWS” in the subject line.