August 29, 2006

A Victory for Immigrant Children in Riverside New Jersey

Riverside, NJ – Today, the National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders (CONLAMIC) received an official response from the Riverside superintendent of schools, Robert Goldschmidt, confirming that every child who is registered to attend school in Riverside is welcome regardless of their immigration status. This is a clear victory for the immigrant families in Riverside and an excellent example for the state of New Jersey and other cities around the nation who would consider discriminating against children and keep them out of schools due to their immigration status. This is particularly true in towns like Hazleton, Pennsylvania, who like Riverside, have passed similar anti-immigrant ordinances that that hurt businesses, property owners and discriminate against undocumented people.

A Riverside Township ordinance adopted last month bans the hiring and housing of people who cannot verify they are legal residents, creating an environment of fear and hostility and creating a negative division within the town. Latino leaders and concerned citizens see this ordinance as anti-immigrant and a way for city officials and others to pick on immigrants.

“Mayor Charles Hilton stated today that the schools will enroll and accept all the local children regardless of their immigration status, even if their families have recently moved away from the Riverside city limits. If they have moved they only need to bring a letter detailing the recent move,” said Reverend Miguel Rivera, President of CONLAMIC.

“The Superintendent has agreed to appear with me on WWTM 1680 AM, a Spanish language radio program, at 8:30am on Friday, September 1st, to inform the public that every child in Riverside will be welcome at school and that there will be no tolerance for discriminatory actions against the kids,” said Rev. Rivera. The reverend will translate for the Superintendent during the program.

CONLAMIC’s attorney, William Sanchez said “It’s the kids that have been a concern to us because school is about to start. U.S. laws protect all who live in this country and even most people don’t understand the law well enough to know that this is true. As CONLAMIC’s legal council, I provided the information needed to educate school administrators and city officials with regarding the laws that protect these children.”

The pressure that CONLAMIC and other Latino leaders have placed on Riverside city officials to protect immigrant kids starting school has yeilded great results. The fact that the superintendent going to announce it on a live Spanish radio show to ensure that the community understands that the city will comply with the law that protects all children including children who are undocumented, is a victory in itself.

“We respect and praise the decision made by the Mayor and Superintendent. But we also want to ensure that Riverside city officials understand that although we as leaders find no need to appear on school grounds the first day of class, we have asked parents to inform us if they experience anything of concern in the schools,” said Rev. Miguel Rivera.

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