Hispanics in NJ Hope For a Change in State Government

Eloísa Aquino (right) (Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario)

The race for the New Jersey governor’s seat remains tight between Republican Kim Guadagno and Democrat Phil Murphy. (…)

Many immigrants in the state say that they have felt unprotected ever since Trump became president, and that, depending on who becomes the new boss in New Jersey, the situation will become either more uncertain or they will be able to start dreaming of a progressive government that offers more protection (…)

“We have many needs, and in the hope that Murphy will become the new governor, we ask him to help us by increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour, issuing driver’s licenses and protecting Dreamers. They need to stop using us every four years to get votes,” said Uruguayan-born Edison Hernández, who has lived in Elizabeth for 16 years.

As a construction workers’ trainer, Hernández has another request. “We also urgently need them to promote protections in our construction industry. In the state of New Jersey, there is no safety, unlike cities like New York, where there is a law mandating that workers’ safety is ensured. We do not have any of that here.”

Olga Armas from Peru, and the mother of a beneficiary of the DACA program – which President Trump announced last month he will disband – said that her greatest concerns are protections for students and health care.

“We need more financial aid for all youths, not just Dreamers, and more interpreters at public agencies, as well as universal [health] insurance,” said Armas, not hiding her fear of an eventual victory for Guadagno.

“I think that, if she won, we would be worse off than we are now. We feel less protected than before; we are insecure. Here in New Jersey, many people are panicked and scared. It feels as if we were being persecuted, as if we had done something bad. We feel like criminals, particularly since February, when there was a raid and, when the police were called, they sided with ICE. They detained a woman with her baby, and it ended in a deportation process,” she said.

Cuban-born Ramón Arencibia, for his part, was in favor of New Jersey protecting immigrants, though not as a sanctuary state. He added that he supports Trump putting an end to illegal immigration.

“Undocumented people must be helped here because they have families, but we also need to continue protecting the borders to prevent more people from crossing,” he said as he stood in front of the 99 Cent Glory store in Union City. He added that he still does not know which candidate he will vote for and that he will decide after [Tuesday’s] debate.


“Taxes are very high, and rents are extremely expensive because owners have to pay a lot, and businesses too… You can’t even live anymore. That is why I think that taxes are the priority, and then they need to legalize marijuana. That is what the state is missing,” said Arencibia.

Sara Cullinane, from organization Make the Road New Jersey, said that “it would be more of the same” if Kim Guadagno won, and that she fears that the candidate would promote further anti-immigrant policy.

“When she was county sheriff in Monmouth County, she started a program – the 287(g) – basically giving immigration powers to local police and jails. This has caused a lot of pain and panic in the immigrant community,” said the activist. (…) “We need a sanctuary state in which the police and schools do not work with immigration [authorities]. We need a government that does not use our tax money to help with deportations. After the raids they have carried out, families do not want to talk to the police even to report crimes, which puts everyone’s safety at risk.”

Cullinane said that many immigrants in New Jersey have their hopes set on the November election to put a stop to the federal government.

“The governor is our first line of defense against Trump, and it is important to have a governor and an attorney general and politicians who will fight to defend the rights of immigrants and workers, which are under attack. Even though the legislature is Democratic, in the last eight years with Gov. Christie it has been very hard to pass anything, since he either vetoes it or threatens to veto,” she pointed out.

Still, other immigrants, such as Mexican-born Eloísa Aquino, say that they will feel safe regardless of who wins this election. Aquino added that she has not seen negative changes in the 10 years she has been living in New Jersey.

“I am not in fear, and I feel that the police supports us the same whether Republicans or Democrats are in charge. What I do want to ask them is to lower taxes, as they have increased a lot, and rents too, and to raise wages. It is hard to live on $8.50 an hour,” said Aquino.

Omar Husni, a high school senior of Chilean and Egyptian descent who dreams of studying biology in college, said that the state’s youths need financial support. (…)

“A career like mine would cost me at least $210,000, as tuition is ridiculously expensive. That limits our chances of success and of getting stable jobs and living comfortably,” said the 17-year-old, a claim that was echoed by Salvadoran-born Douglas Martínez, who works in a factory. (…)

“Young people need more help, a path to obtaining driver’s licenses and also for relations with the police to improve in order to reduce violence, which has increased. It is evident that people are scared to ask for help,” said the worker. “I drive without a license, and I live in such fear that, every time I see a police car, I fear that it will cost me my deportation. We need real changes.” (…)

Leading Hispanic Group Endorses Murphy

New Jersey Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Murphy (center with Latino Leadership Alliance of New Jersey President María Teresa Montilla (front) and others members of the organization. (Photo via Reporte Hispano)

[Below are excerpts from a story by Reporte Hispano]

The Latino Leadership Alliance of New Jersey (LLANJ) officially endorsed Phil Murphy for state governor in one of the candidate’s campaign events surrounding Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations in Jersey City.

“We are here today to announce our endorsement of Phil Murphy,” said LLANJ President María Teresa Montilla at the event held at St. Peter’s University. During the announcement, she was flanked by other members of the organization’s management. (…)

Murphy, who was present, thanked the LLANJ for its support, replying: “You have my word, as governor […] I will work with the Latino Leadership Alliance of New Jersey and other organizations and leaders from across the state (…)”

The candidate joined the community’s celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, but first took a moment to reflect on the recent events that have devastated Puerto Rico and Mexico. (…)

“The humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico […] is not abstract to New Jersey. […] Congress must act quickly and forcefully, and expedite a relief aid bill,” Murphy stressed. (…)

Likewise, the candidate reiterated his promise to approve driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants, financial aid for college students regardless of their immigration status, a state ID, (…) and to support comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level and defend Dreamers.

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