On Feb. 27, the struggle for immigrant rights took a giant leap forward in Jersey City, N.J.
Jersey City is located across the Hudson River from New York City and has a population of around 250,000. According to the U.S. Bureau of the Census (2010), 38.2 percent of Jersey City residents were born in other countries, while another 4.6 percent were born in U.S. colonies. This makes immigrant rights a very important everyday topic in the streets, in the schools, on the job — and in City Hall.
The victory will impact not in a strictly legal sense — but most definitely in the display of peoples’ power and the strengthening of unity between different community-based organizations working around this issue.
Jersey City now serves as an example to other municipalities in the state on taking a stand for a person’s right to affordable and quality education, regardless of immigration status.
Anakbayan NJ is the local chapter of an international organization of revolutionary Filipino youth who have a socialist and anti-imperialist perspective. It follows in the tradition of past grassroots organizations here, like the Black Panther Party chapter that had offices on Pacific Avenue in the 1960s, and the All Peoples’ Congress, which led struggles against police brutality and gentrification in the 1990s.
In just a few weeks, Anakbayan NJ was able to organize a coalition to rally in front of and then pack City Hall with 75 supporters. The coalition included students from New Jersey City University and St. Peter’s University, as well as community activists from NJ Action 21, Mujeres Unidas en Acción, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund and the American Friends Service Committee.
They demanded that the City Council support a resolution endorsing legislation that has been introduced in both the New Jersey Senate and Assembly which would give “DREAMers” in-state tuition rates and financial aid. “DREAMers” are residents who came to the U.S. at a young age without so-called “necessary documents.”
The resolution passed 9 to 0. It was even supported by the mayor.