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They come from everywhere: the almost 22 percent of New Jersey residents who are foreign-born. With your backing, NJ Spotlight and the partners of the Center for Cooperative Media will cut through the political rhetoric and tell stories of what it’s like for the nearly 2 million immigrants who live in our most diverse and densely populated state.

  • 104%funded
    so far
  • 30days
  • $31,360raised
    so far
This project is no longer accepting pledges
* This project was successfully funded.
★ DOUBLE YOUR IMPACT ★ Beacon will match every dollar you pledge, up to $15,000 in total.

Does New Jersey live up to Lady Liberty’s ideals?

New Jersey has historically opened itself to newcomers. After all, the Statue of Liberty stands on the New Jersey side of the harbor. With almost 2 million foreign-born residents, the only states with more immigrants per capita are California and New York.

Yet what makes New Jersey truly different is the diversity of our immigrant population.

Help us tell a different kind of immigration story

New Jersey’s immigration story doesn’t fit the stereotypes you’re probably familiar with: a large cohort of people crossing illegally into border states and upending the status quo.

In this state, immigrants come from everywhere. New Jersey is home to more than 300,000 South Americans, 300,000 from the Caribbean, 250,000 South Asians, 140,000 Eastern Europeans, 140,000 Central Americans, 125,000 Mexicans, 95,000 Africans, 90,000 Chinese — and that’s just for starters.

What your pledge creates

Immigration is arguably the hottest issue in the country right now. Over the next year, NJ Spotlight will explore how New Jersey’s immigrants are doing – what are measures of success and what are the outright barriers to progress?

When you back this project:

  • We will look at immigration issues from both inside and outside communities, through a unique partnership with the state’s ethnic press.

  • We’ll investigate the divisive political rhetoric that has increased fear and suspicion among newcomers and natives alike. While some cities are actively creating programs that will provide sanctuary to their immigrant populations, other locals have been vocal regarding their fears that immigrants bring with them security risks and possible drains on the safety net.

  • We’ll discover how New Jersey’s foreign-born are coping with this changing climate. We will also take a close look at the impact these communities are having on New Jersey — whether it be education, jobs, housing, or the economy.

Most importantly, we’ll talk to these newcomers directly. Through our partnership with the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State, we will reach into these communities via ethnic media.

These publications — targeted at New Jersey’s Arab, Brazilian, Chinese, Filipino, and Latino communities, among others – will give voice to their stories and experiences.

At bottom, we hope to provide the answers to two central questions: What’s it like to be an immigrant living in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty and is our state living up to her promise?

Click here to make your pledge.

Who we are

NJ Spotlight is dedicated to original, thoughtful investigative reporting on complex issues. Working with the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State, which represents 150 different media partners from around New Jersey, we will tell the stories of these diverse immigrants and how they are changing what it means to become an American.

EthnicNJ is also partnering with NJ Spotlight and the Center for Cooperative Media to tell the story of New Jersey’s diverse communities. EthnicNJ’s interactive NJ Demographic Maps are a unique data reporting tool for journalists telling stories about the ethnic geography of New Jersey. Funding from New Jersey Immigration Project will support EthnicNJ’s coverage of New Jersey’s demographics and ethnic communities.

We’re also partnering with Reporte Hispano. Reporte Hispano is the best and largest Spanish-language media company in NJ and the only locally-owned and Hispanic-owned media company in the state. Reporte Hispano is Latino and woman-owned, WBENC-certified. ReporteHispano.com provides the community with the best in Spanish-langauge reporting on issues that are important to NJ residents.

Your donations are tax-deductible. Every pledge will be matched dollar for dollar, thanks to Beacon!

Your support creates:

· a series of in-depth reports that will take a look at these communities: their struggles, achievements, and the impact they are having in critical areas such as education, healthcare, jobs, and housing;

· an investigation into the plight of the undocumented, including legislation and municipal policies and practices that affect their ability to live, work, and be educated in New Jersey;

· an examination of how and why some communities gain political power while others still struggle;

· personal stories, captured on video through ethnic media, that give the foreign-born a wide audience for their perspective as they wrestle with everyday obstacles and increasingly hostile political rhetoric;

· in-depth data reporting that examines where different communities have settled — and why;

· updated Ancestry, Hispanic and Asian Ancestry, and Place of Birth Maps with the most recent (December 2015) five-year Census data, courtesy of EthnicNJ;

· an assessment of how New Jersey’s bedroom communities are handling the influx of immigrants of color;

· an engagement campaign that ignites a statewide conversation on immigration in New Jersey.

Click here to make your pledge.

Michele Mercuri March 8 at 6:58 pm

This nation was built by immigrants. This is our legacy and this is our strength.

Adrian O. Mapp March 7 at 5:24 pm

It is important for me, an immigrant from Barbados and Mayor of the City of Plainfield, to get fact based information on the role of immigrants in the Garden State and their contributions to the state and the nation. Too often politicians forget that we are a nation of immigrants and that the fruits they enjoy today are from trees planted by their ancestors who came from distant lands to the shores of America seeking opportunities, a better way of life and desire to be free.

Greg Derham March 7 at 3:35 pm

NJ Spotlight does a great job on reporting issues of education and economic development.

You deliver credible information about the state of New Jersey and we rely on it to help us with using STEM education in order to grow jobs.

Greg Derham

Managing Director Garden State Education Group


Miriam Ascarelli Edited March 7 at 2:49 pm

In-depth reporting on immigration matters.

Jennifer Gandolfo March 4 at 10:25 pm

This nation was built on the backs of the hard work of immigrants from all around the world and it continues to be our strength. We must continue to learn and support our immigrant communities in NJ and beyond.

Stacey K. Simon March 4 at 5:43 pm

Immigrant integration is important — to immigrants and to all communities that newcomers call home. If more of us hear the stories and understand the facts, I believe we can do a better job addressing the barriers new immigrants face. We have so much to gain when we harness the talent and energy of these individuals! My particular interest is doing something about “brain waste” — the under- and unemployment of foreign-educated immigrants. I know it will come up for you in this work.

Enrique Lavin March 4 at 4:43 pm

As an immigrant who has made his life in here with an immigrant spouse, I — and my family — know first-hand how much immigrant communities’ contribute to this state and country. New Jersey is one of the riches places in the world in part because of its mosaic of people. That being an immigrant — legally here or not — is being painted as “other” is deeply troubling. Hopefully this project ignites positive sparks in the minds of those who would diminish the immigrant’s place here. Godspeed.

Fiona Morgan March 4 at 3:54 pm

Independent journalism is essential to helping us understand immigration and the impact of immigration policy on people, families, neighborhoods, schools, businesses, and our communities as a whole. I’m so glad NJ Spotlight is taking on this project.

raoul momo March 4 at 3:51 pm


Joyce F. Jonat March 2 at 6:17 pm

My beloved grandmother came over from Italy when she was just 9 years old and she made a good life for herself here in the USA.

Carolyn Amditis March 1 at 11:05 pm

Everyone has a story to tell, why not the folks from NJ…they may be a small state but they have big hearts with big stories.

Louise Wilson March 1 at 3:40 pm

…because immigration and immigrants are a big part of what makes NJ such an interesting, lively, wonderful state.

Barry Malone February 29 at 11:48 pm

I trust Paula Saha to do a good job reporting it!

Esther Surden February 26 at 1:53 am

Immigrants are so important to the story of New Jersey. I come across so many who are making a difference and creating innovation here. Their story should be told along with the stories of others who may be living in the shadows.

Allyson Gall February 24 at 5:16 pm

the average “Joe” needs to be reminded how diverse NJ is and what the dividends of diversity are!

Doug O'Malley February 24 at 4:01 pm

We are all immigrants — some of us just got here earlier than others.

Anthony Ewing February 24 at 2:11 pm

EthnicNJ.com is supporting this project to help tell the full story of New Jersey’s many communities.

“Immigrants: We get the job done!” - Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton.

Reporte Hispano February 23 at 11:11 pm

¡Estamos en la lucha ! Los inmigrantes son la fundación de una sociedad buena.

; ) ReporteHispano


Erika Bleiberg February 23 at 9:19 pm

If not for immigration in 1939 my then-9 year-old mother would likely have perished in the German death camps. Today’s 3-year-old Syrian orphan is 1939’s German Jewish child. Children are children. We all have stories and journeys. I hold my mother’s close.

Debbie Galant Team Member February 24 at 5:27 am

Beautiful, Erika. Too few people connect the dots between generations.

Tom McGough February 23 at 8:55 pm

We need to understand the issues before they overwhelm us.

Sean Monahan February 23 at 8:53 pm

As a fellow publisher in NJ, New Brunswick Today, I think that getting more stories out there about our immigrant communities is very important. We are nation of immigrants, my mother was born overseas, and I want to do what I can help welcome the new Americans. In many ways they are more American than the native born, because despite all the challenges and obstacles they face, they chose be part of our country and to make their contributions here. Thank you for your work in this important area.

Reva Jaffe-Walter February 22 at 4:15 pm

We need more quality reporting on how the members of our communities and state are affected by immigration policies and deportations so that we can understand how to create more responsive policies and practices.

NJ Spotlight Author ★ February 22 at 5:46 pm

Thanks so much — that’s exactly what we hope to do. It’s a complex issue and demands honest reporting.

William Firestone February 22 at 2:28 pm

I think the story of immigration in America is important because it is one of the most fundamental sources of the development of our national identity. Yet, it is one on which we seem to be ready to turn our backs. Something isn’t right in our understanding of this issue.

NJ Spotlight Author ★ February 22 at 5:50 pm

I think we’ve always been conflicted about immigration. But you are absolutely correct — understanding and knowledge are key to progress.

Jacqueline Lapsley February 22 at 1:16 pm

I want to support local, in-depth journalism.

NJ Spotlight Author ★ February 22 at 5:47 pm

That’s wonderful! We thank you for understanding how important it is.

Jayani Alles February 20 at 2:24 pm

The topic is relevant now more than ever, and I’m a foreign born New Jersey resident.

NJ Spotlight Author ★ February 22 at 5:47 pm

Thank you so much — and as you know, there are many of you!

In the Shadow of Liberty — tax-deductible receipts

May 5 at 8:47 pm

Dear Friends,

We will soon be sending out the tax-deductible receipts for your generous donations to our upcoming project on immigration in New Jersey, “In the Shadow of Liberty.” We will be doing so via email.

If you would prefer to receive a paper version of the receipt, please send an email to Paula Saha at psaha@njspotlight.com with your mailing address.

Many thanks,
The NJ Spotlight and Center for Cooperative Media Team

You did it. Thank you.

March 9 at 4:12 pm

Thank you for answering the call to support comprehensive reporting about immigration in New Jersey. We are thrilled that we have reached our fundraising goal, and then some!

Now that we have the funds, the journalism starts. We have lots of story ideas, but we want to hear from you. Have an idea worth sharing? A concern? This project would not be happening if it weren’t for you. So keep taking part! Send us an email at info@njspotlight.com.

We already have a few things in the works. And you’ll soon be hearing from us about the rewards you’ve claimed, and through our monthly immigration newsletter.

In addition, The Center for Cooperative Media will be distributing a portion of the funds to ethnic and hyperlocal press. Stay tuned for application guidelines. 

Thank you again for your support. We are so grateful, and look forward to the work ahead.

— From all of us at NJ Spotlight and The Center for Cooperative Media

Four more days!

March 4 at 2:10 pm

Hi everyone —

We wanted to let you know that NJ Spotlight’s editors will be on The Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC this morning to talk about the immigration project that YOU are making possible, and they will be taking calls. Tune in, and join the conversation!

We have four days to get to our goal, and we are 73 percent of the way there. Can you help us get to 100 percent? Do you know one other person who cares about these issues? Could you send an email or share on Facebook? Remember, this is an all-or-nothing campaign. Spread the word!

Thank you so much for your support.

Honor a Journey

February 22 at 10:00 pm

Hello to all our wonderful backers!

We can’t thank you enough for supporting our campaign to commit quality journalism on immigration issues in New Jersey. With just two weeks to go, we’re making progress. We hope that you’ll continue to help us by spreading word among your friends and family about this project.

We wanted to also mention that we’ve added a new reward! At the $200 level, you can now support our project while also honoring the immigration journey of someone you love. We’ll give them permanent, special recognition on our project website, including a photo and other details.

If you’ve already made a pledge below that level and are interested in this reward, you can go into your Beacon account and edit your pledge amount. And those of you who have already pledged at the $200 mark or above, we are happy to extend this reward to you. Just drop us an email at memorials@njspotlight.com for more information.

One of our favorite parts of the Beacon site is the discussion section. We love hearing from all of you. What immigration-related issues do YOU think our project should cover?. Let us know by logging in and commenting today.

Thank you again,

The NJ Spotlight and the Center for Cooperative Media Team

Thank You!

February 11 at 7:20 pm

Dear Backers —

Just a quick note to thank you for making the first few days of our #njimmigration crowdfunding campaign a success! With your help, we’re up to nearly 30 percent of our goal!

We’re already working on a couple of immigration-related stories, and meeting next week to strategize with our ethnic media partners. And in case you missed it, we wanted to make sure you saw NJ Spotlight’s list this week, showing the largest cohorts of the many ethnic groups residents that make up the Garden State, according to the 2014 American Community Survey.

We’re off to a good start, but we still have a ways to go. Thank you for donating, and for continuing to spread word of our campaign on social media and among your friends. It’s good to know that there are many people in this world willing to support quality journalism on subjects they care about.


The NJ Spotlight & Center for Cooperative Media Team

Best Read
We’ll send you our new monthly immigration newsletter, chock-full of must-reads from us and others across the country on this important subject.
14 claimed
Project Recognition
We’ll recognize your contribution on our project website and add you to our monthly immigration news newsletter.
41 claimed
Custom Sticker
You’ll receive a custom project sticker, recognition on our website, and our monthly newsletter.
27 claimed
Learn Something New
You’ll get free admission to one of the Center for Cooperative Media’s informative, hands-on training sessions and learn something new, such as how to make a podcast or use an online tool. You’ll also get the sticker, your name on the project website and our monthly immigration newsletter.
19 claimed
Pulitzer-Level Thanks
In addition to all of the above, we’ll send you a copy of The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, written by Dominican American author and Jersey guy Junot Diaz.
8 claimed
Honor A Journey
Do you have a family member with an immigration story? We’ll give them permanent, special recognition on our project website, including a photo and other details. You’ll also get the Junot Diaz book, a custom-designed sticker, and a subscription to the monthly immigration newsletter.
3 claimed
Tour of NJ Statehouse
Visit NJ’s historic statehouse, meet with legislators and get a reporter-led tour of NJ’s seat of government. You’ll also get our custom-designed sticker, online recognition and the monthly immigration newsletter.
6 claimed
Ellis Island/Statue of Liberty Tour
We’ll take you on a special tour of Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, as well as invite you to our statehouse tour, offer the sticker, your name on the project website, our monthly immigration newsletter and The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.
6 claimed
Ethnic Food Experience
Enjoy an ethnic food experience with members of the reporting team. You’ll receive an invitation to statehouse tour, custom sticker and button, and online recognition in our immigration newsletter.
2 claimed
Cooking Lesson
A cooking and dining experience with the editor and reporting team, plus invitations to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty tour, the sticker, your name on the project website, our monthly immigration newsletter, and The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.
Sponsorship Level
At this level, we will name you or your business as a sponsor of our project. You will get display advertising space on our project website.
Note: All pledges are in USD.


NJ Spotlight is an award-winning, nonprofit news site that focuses on investigative and in-depth reporting on the most crucial issues facing New Jersey. Founded in 2010, we have won an Edward R. Murrow award, been named best news site by the NJ Society of Professional Journalists and the best small news site the Online News Association.

Our work is used by WNYC, WHYY, NJ.com, Philly.com and the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The Center for Cooperative Media represents dozens of media partners, who will bring nuance to the project. Ethnic NJ, a food site with expertise in immigration patterns, will help us interpret census data. Our many community news partners can report from the neighborhood. And we have collaborative presentation skills to pull it all together and distribute our work widely.

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Stories about In the Shadow of Liberty: New Jersey Immigration need to be told

Help NJ Spotlight bring them to BEACON. At $30,000, NJ Spotlight can provide sustainable reporting on the topic you won't get anywhere else.

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