TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Lawmakers are pushing for the state to offer college tuition assistance to citizens — even if their parents are living in the U.S. without permission.
A bill was introduced in both chambers of the state Legislature after a U.S.-born high school student sued the state last year claiming she had been denied tuition assistance because her mother is an illegal immigrant.
Assemblywoman Marlene Caride, a Democrat from West New York, announced Friday that she had introduced a bill last month to rectify that.
"College is terribly expensive," Caride said. "We should be looking for ways to make it more affordable for our students, not costlier."
She called the situation for students born in the United States to parents who are in the country illegally "difficult and unfair."
Under the bill, students would be eligible for grants, loans and scholarships from the New Jersey Higher Education Student Assistance Authority if they are U.S. citizens who have lived in the U.S. for at least a year and their parents show that they are paying state and federal income taxes.
An identical bill was introduced in the state Senate in March and was moved out of the Senate's higher education committee in May.
Last year, a 17-year-old student, identified in court papers only by the initials A.Z., got help from the American Civil Liberties Union and a Rutgers University legal clinic and sued the state, saying her aid application was rejected because "her parents are not legal New Jersey residents."
The court case is pending.
In June 2010, HESAA officials said students — or, if they are not legally adults, their parents — have to prove they have been "domiciled" in New Jersey for at least a year before they can get aid.
The ACLU said A.Z. and other students were rejected for help because the agency defined "domiciled" to mean the person had to be a legal U.S. resident.