Immigrant safety net lauded

New Jersey is home to a large and growing diverse population of immigrants, and the community-based organizations in the state that offer English classes, legal help and advocacy continue to be important in helping newcomers integrate, a study released Monday found.

The 72-page report, titled “Meet the Neighbors: Organizational and Spatial Dynamics of Immigrant New Jersey,” was issued by the Program on Immigration and Democracy at Rutgers University’s Eagleton Institute of Politics. It states that the Garden State has adopted few policies to help immigrants integrate, and community-based organizations are doing much of the heavy lifting with fewer federal funds and staff.

“The failure to enact immigration reform has put tremendous pressure on the local level,” said Anastasia Mann, who teaches a course on immigration policy at Rutgers and is one of the authors of the report. “I’m talking about how people are getting their needs met, and in almost in any community you go to where there is a significant immigrant population, you will find a typically quite scrappy but occasionally you know very institutionalized organization that is making some really important connections for people to local government, to schools, to the hospital, and there is a wide variation in terms of how localities are integrating immigrants.”

The study outlines the demographic changes in New Jersey and some of the circumstances that have resulted with that shift. It looked at immigrants across the state, where they came from, live and work, and how they conform and depart from historical immigration patterns. Researchers also surveyed more than 200 community-based organizations that work with immigrants for the study.

Nearly half — about 800,000 — of the immigrants currently living in New Jersey have already naturalized. Demographers estimate that another 250,000 to 500,000 may be living in the country illegally. Roughly that same number are legal residents, according to the report.

From 1870 to 1970, European countries made up the top five nations where Garden State immigrants hailed from, but by 1980, Cuba made the list. In 2010, European countries were absent from the top five, with immigrants from India, Mexico, Dominican Republic, China and Korea leading the list.

Mann said several municipalities in New Jersey are home to immigrants from certain parts of the world. In South Jersey, near Camden, there are a number of Cambodian immigrants, while Bergen County is home to a larger number of Koreans and Filipinos.

A majority of immigrants in New Jersey, as in the rest of the country, live in the suburbs, where they can find others who have emigrated from the same country, as well as jobs, services and schools, the report states.

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Immigrant safety net lauded
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