NEW JERSEY (PIX11) — Rutgers University held their first ever college fair today for undocumented immigrants.
Hundreds turned out for the event, which was dubbed ‘UndocuRutgers’. Organizers say the registration list filled to capacity. Rutgers faculty, students and admissions staff spoke to attending undocumented prospective students about financial aid, tuition, their legal status and scholarships.
Some undocumented students who turned out for the event said their ineligibility for government loans is their biggest barrier to higher education.
“Its tough when economically, you can’t afford your tuition,” said Jennifer Sanchez, a student at Essex County College. Sanchez says she came to the United States from Ecuador at age 4, after being separated from her parents for a year. She wants to get a bachelors and masters degree from Rutgers University.
“I was hoping for some of my questions to be answered and hopefully for some more benefits for us,” said Sanchez.
Currently, both New York and New Jersey offer lower in-state tuition rates to undocumented immigrants. Although some do award undocumented students scholarships, they are not eligible for any financial aid.
In November of last year, President Obama announced an executive order that would make it easier for undocumented families to temporarily earn a living. His action allows immigrants who are unlawfully in the country to apply for permission to stay and work in the U.S. for a period of 3 years.
“Undocumented immigrants are a large part of the economy. And the more education we receive, the more we can invest back into the economy,” said Giancarlo Tello, a Rutgers-Newark junior who organized Saturday’s college fair.
Tello also came to this country at a young age with his parents. He says he was the first undocumented Rutgers-Newark student to receive a scholarship to the University. He says that news of the award was not well received by everyone, so he put forward the idea of hosting the ‘UndocuRutgers’ event to help other students like him.
“I mean I am undocumented, so it is definitely my own experience,” he said.
But not all Rutgers students were permitted inside Saturday’s event.
Matthew Boyer, a Rutgers New Brunswick student who writes for the Daily Targum and for an online publication, said he was turned away at the door.
“I think that it should be an open event, in that, those who want to attend and observe should,” Boyer said outside, “Especially as a Rutgers student, someone who pays tuition.”
The news media was denied access to the event because the University is keeping attendees’ registration information confidential. Campus security was stationed at the door.