Immigration Weekly Round-Up: NJ Restores Pandemic Funds for Immigrants; Federal Government Settles with Students Over School Sting Operation; NY Legislature Advances Healthcare Coverage for Undocumented Residents
New Jersey’s Governor Phil Murphy to Restore Immigrant Worker Pandemic Fund
Last week, the Immigration Weekly Round-Up posted about New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy’s decision to reallocate federal funds from the state’s Immigrant Worker Fund that was designated as pandemic assistance for undocumented immigrants throughout New Jersey. This caused outrage, sparking a protest and hunger strikes.
Following up on that story, Governor Murphy stated Thursday on WNYC radio that he was now working to restore the diverted money by using funds from another federal COVID relief package. The Immigrant Worker Fund would continue to distribute the full $40 million as was initially declared. Governor Murphy also stated that there are over 7,000 applications for assistance pending or that were previously rejected that will be reviewed again following this reinstatement of funds.
The NM Immigration Blog will continue to follow this story as it develops.
Proposed Settlement for Foreign Nationals Enrolled at Fake N.J. University
The federal government and several foreign nationals have agreed on a proposed settlement agreement following arrests and visa cancellations made in connection enrollment at the fictitious University of Northern New Jersey, a school set up by the U.S. officials as a sting operation to crack down on visa fraud. If the agreement is ultimately approved in court, the government would rescind adverse immigration actions taken against foreign nationals who enrolled as students and would not use these actions against them when assessing future immigration benefits.
Both an attorney for the foreign nationals and federal courts distinguished between the students and over 20 educational “agents,” who recruited these students to enroll at the fake college and were later arrested as a part of the investigation. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals questioned whether the students were willing participants in the operation, and Elizabeth Montano, who represents the foreign nationals, stated that the students were victims of a fraud.
The Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) agreed to cancel removal proceedings against the students and allowed them to apply for a new visa category or seek reinstatement of student visas by applying to another school.
Health Care Coverage Bill for Undocumented New Yorkers Advances
Recently, legislation entitled the “Coverage for All,” a bill that would expand health care coverage to all residents of the State of New York regardless of immigration status, was approved by the N.Y. Assembly Health Committee. The bill’s sponsor, Richard Gottfried, announced that “No New Yorker should be denied health care because of immigration status and New York should be a progressive leader in promoting health equity. Expanding health coverage to undocumented adults is good fiscal and moral policy and I hope we can advance Coverage for All in this year’s budget.”
Immigrant advocacy groups, such as the New York Immigration Coalition, applauded the advancement of the bill. The group’s executive director, Murad Awawdeh, stated: “State lawmakers have a responsibility to immigrants who put their lives at risk working to keep essential services running throughout the pandemic. New York cannot afford to leave anyone behind in order for the state to rebuild and recover.” This health care expansion has also received support from health insurers, including the New York State Conference of Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans, which backed the measure on Wednesday.