Politics is indeed strange. And often enough it can leave us a bit dispirited, even when public policy indeed advances toward a more progressive outcome. It’s just not very satisfying a lot of the time.
As you probably heard , on Thursday, December 19, 2013, the New Jersey Legislature and the Governor reached a “compromise” on tuition equity for DREAMers — the number one bill of the Lame Duck session and the thing we’ve been going back to you again and again to call your legislators, get congregants to act, and so on. And then, right at the time the Assembly was going to vote on the “full” proposal, i.e, with financial aid included, there’s a compromise. Under the compromise, DREAMers get instate tuition, but they don’t get access to state financial aid. Better than what they have now, but still not treated as the full New Jerseyans that they are. One momentary benefit is that they get it right away, which I think means it applies for the Spring Term 2014.
This story is all a bit like the marriage equality fight. We pushed and pushed, attended rallies and signed petitions, organized with other advocates, all to persuade the Legislature to override the Governor’s veto. It was going to be a sweet victory, especially since it included a snub to Governor Christie, who progressives would say certainly needs a snub or two. Then, the court decisions come through and suddenly the Governor decides not to continue the appeal of the lower court decision. That decision stands — no ringing Supreme Court decision (although the procedural one comes pretty close — read it if you haven’t already done so), and no veto override that would be a clear defeat for the Governor.
How are we to react to these events? I would say we do so by celebrating the victories we get and then moving on. I spent my working career on the edge of politics, most of those years in New Jersey. There were lots of “sort-of wins,” accomplishments that didn’t fully satisfy, and lots of times for trying again. For me, that’s the nature of things in the public arena.
Did we make this happen? Would DREAMers not get instate tuition if we had not been there, pushing for a good cause? Well, no, certainly not UUs by ourselves. But I fully believe that it would not have happened without the advocacy of all the active and involved groups, organized in a strong coalition, and of course not without the presence and the eloquence of the young people themselves.
Let us grasp the hands of these fellow New Jerseyans. Let us keep in our minds that there is still work to do, both for the DREAMers’ need for access to state aid and for other immigration issues in our state. Let us keep active in the coalitions. And let us continue.
Immigration Task Force Chair