Nearly one million New Jersey residents are noncitizen immigrants. Of that number, more than half a million are undocumented — including nearly 110,000 undocumented youth under age 24.

Without a lawful immigration status, these 110,000 mainly Black and Brown youth fall into what we call the “status gap.” The effects of the status gap go far beyond immigration enforcement. Secure status is still the ultimate key to our society. Without it, immigrant youth face exclusion from healthcare, emergency relief, and equal opportunities in every area of life.

What Causes the Status Gap?

 The current Administration has tried every tactic to marginalize immigrant youth and cheat them out of status. Even with a new Administration, unwinding these tactics will take years of sustained effort.
A lack of information and of quality, affordable lawyers in New Jersey means even youth who are eligible for secure status are simply unaware or unable to get the help they need
Without status, young immigrants face exclusion and criminalization. Though many are essential workers, they are barred from pandemic relief and healthcare, and face discrimination at school and work — often compounded by their intersecting identities.

Most plans for closing the status gap focus on new federal legislation to create a path to status for all. But the status gap is not inevitable, even if the federal government fails to act.

Closing the Status Gap

There are things we can do to close the status gap today. We empower immigrant youth by attacking the gap in three ways:

Courts: We wield the power of our coalition to fight federal attempts to cheat immigrant youth of status and to unwind years of harmful policies.
Community Outreach:  We arm immigrant communities with knowledge, build a cadre of high quality lawyers, and push resources to underserved communities.
Advocacy: We promote youth empowerment and wellbeing by collaborating to win equal healthcare and education for young immigrants.

For immigrant youth, winning a secure status can be transformative, the path to a life without fear and the resources they need to thrive.

One day soon, immigrant youth will win the national right to a secure status for all — a fight they’ve led for decades. But the status gap can’t wait. Until that day comes, we will back up and lift up immigrant youth.

Our Victories

Since 2015, the Consortium has fought federal attempts to widen the status gap while promoting equity for undocumented youth.

  • In 2019, we beat back a federal attempt to strip youth up to age 21 of humanitarian protection from parental abuse and abandonment. So far, our win has helped over 675 young people successfully petition U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for the right to stay in the United States.
  • With community partners, we protected the constitutional right of immigrant children to receive an education in our public schools.
  • Working with organizers, the Consortium helped immigrant families plan in case a parent is detained or deported.

We’re in this fight until it’s won. Ready to join us? Learn how you can contribute as a youth leader or an ally.