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Immigration News Affecting New Jersey in April 2015

0328Jersey_City_Statue_of_Liberty.JPGSeveral recent events and news stories in New Jersey could have a significant effect on immigrants in this area and their families, employers, and advocates. This includes news about increased immigration into New Jersey and its impact on the state’s economy. A recent New Jersey Supreme Court decision affirmed the state government’s decision to limit the availability of Medicaid to certain lawful immigrants. Finally, New Jersey’s governor recently joined a brief supporting a lawsuit by several states against the federal government over President Obama’s executive actions on immigration.

Immigrants Are Balancing New Jersey’s Population

According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of immigrants who have moved into New Jersey in the past few years is almost the same as the number of residents who have left. In 2013 and 2014, approximately 55,000 people moved out of New Jersey. This is reportedly a trend that has continued for decades, with some people leaving to retire and others leaving in search of jobs or lower living costs.

In that same two-year span of time, over 51,000 people moved to New Jersey from abroad, which is apparently a rate of immigration not seen in this state since the early 20th century. Most of the state’s population growth is in urban counties. Middlesex and Hudson Counties, for example, have seen net population growth, reportedly in large part due to immigration.

New Jersey Supreme Court Affirms Denial of Medicaid Benefits to Certain Immigrants

The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) of 1996, enacted by Congress under the banner of “welfare reform,” limits immigrant eligibility for various public benefits programs. Only “qualified aliens,” defined to include lawful permanent residents and certain asylees and refugees, are generally eligible for federal benefits. 8 U.S.C. § 1641(b). Most people who meet this definition, but who entered the U.S. after PRWORA’s effective date of August 22, 1996, are barred from eligibility for their first five years in this country. 8 U.S.C. § 1613(a).

New Jersey applies these restrictions to the NJ Medicaid program. The Appellate Division ruled in 2013 that excluding lawful immigrants who do not have five years of residency from the state Medicaid program does not violate the U.S. or state constitutions. Guaman v. Velez, 74 A.3d 931 (N.J. App. 2013). The New Jersey Supreme Court affirmed this holding, adopting the lower court’s reasoning. Guaman v. Velez, No. A-87 Sept. Term 2013, 073371, slip op. (N.J., Mar. 30, 2015).

New Jersey Supports Immigration Lawsuit Against Federal Government

After the White House issued an executive action on immigration last year, the governors and attorneys general of 17 states filed suit against the federal government. A U.S. district judge granted a preliminary injunction against implementing two parts of the executive action: the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program, and expansions to the existing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Texas, et al v. United States, No. 1:14-cv-00254, mem. op. (S.D. Tex., Feb. 16, 2015).

The federal government is asking the Fifth Circuit to stay the injunction. New Jersey is not a party to the original lawsuit, but Governor Chris Christie signed an amici curiae brief on behalf of the state, along with the governors of Louisiana, South Dakota, and Texas, supporting the plaintiffs/appellees. The brief, filed on March 23, 2015, claims that federal immigration statutes bar DAPA and other parts of the executive action.

Immigration attorney Samuel C. Berger represents immigrants, their families, and their employers. Contact us today online or at (212) 380-8117 to schedule a confidential consultation with a knowledgeable and experienced immigration advocate.

More Blog Posts:

Executive Actions on Immigration Part 2: Authority and Opposition, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, December 24, 2014
Executive Actions on Immigration Part 1: The Context and the Benefits, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, December 10, 2014
Federal and State Laws Vary with Regard to Public Benefits for Certain Immigrants, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, October 1, 2014
Photo credit: Laslovarga [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons.