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NJ governor signs in-state tuition bill for undocumented immigrants

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie [official website] signed a controversial immigration bill [A1659/S2355, PDF] Friday that will allow students in the country illegally to be eligible for in-state rates to attend state colleges, effective immediately. Christie's administration and the state senate reached a compromise on what has been known as the state's version of the DREAM Act on Friday, which scrapped the Democratic Party's proposal to include tuition assistance grants. Before the law was passed, children of undocumented immigrants living in New Jersey were not eligible for the same lower in-state tuition rates that are available to children of US and New Jersey citizens. The new law has faced controversy from both sides of the aisle. Some conservatives are concerned that this move weakens Christie's bid for the GOP nomination for president in 2016, and advocates of tuition equality have slammed Christie for demanding that availability of grants for non-citizens be removed from the bill. New Jersey is the 19th state to pass a law of this kind.

Immigration laws [JURIST backgrounder] have became a hot button issue over the past few years when many states, Arizona being the first, passed laws giving their state and local officials more power to crack down on illegal immigration. In April, Oregon's governor signed a bill [JURIST report] allowing undocumented immigrants to attend public universities at the same tuition rate as in-state residents. In March, a judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of Georgia permanently blocked [JURIST report] a key provision in Georgia's immigration law that criminalized knowingly transporting or harboring an undocumented immigrant during the course of any other crime. In January, Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange asked [JURIST report] the US Supreme Court to overturn a recent decision striking down provisions of Alabama's controversial immigration law [HB 56, PDF]. Last December, Thrash lifted a preliminary injunction [JURIST report] blocking part of a Georgia immigration law that allows law enforcement officers to ask about immigration status when questioning suspects in criminal investigations. Thrash's order was in line with an August ruling by the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, which upheld [JURIST report] that provision of the law, but it remains to be seen how police will enforce the provision.

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