N.J. Catholic Bishops back tuition equality bill

TRENTON – Add a religious supporter to the movement for tuition equality.

The Catholic Bishops of New Jersey issued a call Tuesday for passage of the bill that would offer the lower, in-state college tuition to undocumented immigrant students.

On Thursday, the bill, S2479Sca/A3509, will be before the Senate Budget Committee, at which time the N.J. Catholic Conference will have a representative testifying in favor of the bill.

This is the N.J. Catholic Bishops’ first endorsement of this particular bill, although at the national level there has been backing previously expressed for the proposal. The N.J. Catholic Conference testified in favor of it when it was before the Senate Higher Education Committee in June.

The concept – which recently drew the support of Gov. Chris Christie as well – seems to be gathering steam in a lame-duck legislative session.

The statement, signed by 11 religious officials from Camden, Newark, Paterson, Trenton and other dioceses or counties around the state, says the bill is one step in fixing a broken system.

“Scripture tells us to welcome the stranger, serve the poor, protect human dignity, respect all life, and protect the unity of families,’’ the Bishops said in a joint statement.

“We speak out as spiritual and moral leaders, as shepherds taking care of our flocks.”

The supporters of the measure depict it as a matter of fairness while opponents question whether it’s unfair to some N.J. residents.

On a national level, Catholic bishops have called for comprehensive immigration reform.

Earlier story:

Tuition equality prepares for next legislative checkpoint

N.J. Catholic Bishops back tuition equality bill