The New Faces of New Jersey

They come from all corners of the globe, all in pursuit of the American Dream.

Photos by Axel Dupeux

The numbers are impressive. As of 2015, 2 million New Jersey residents were foreign-born, according to the American Immigration Council. That’s 22.1 percent of our population. Only two states, New York and California, have a higher proportion of immigrants.

The contributions of these immigrants is equally impressive. They are just as likely to have college degrees as native-born New Jerseyans. And they are ambitious. The New American Economy report for 2014 says that 32 percent of all New Jersey entrepreneurs are immigrants. Their businesses employed more than 270,000 workers and generated $3.2 billion in income in 2014. That year, immigrant-led households in New Jersey earned a total of $74.2 billion, and paid more than 25 percent of all state and local taxes.

But those are just numbers. In this package, we shoot past the data and peer into the souls of 12 New Jersey immigrant families. We learn about their hopes and dreams; their struggles and triumphs; their sadness and joy; and the pride they take in contributing to the American way of life.

Click here to read more about the State of Immigration in New Jersey

These are the New Faces of New Jersey. We hope you’ll take the time to read their stories. You’ll be touched—and perhaps a bit surprised at how similar their stories are to your own.

US District Court Judge Esther Salas: From Union City to the Federal Bench
By age 38, Esther Salas was selected as New Jersey’s first Latino federal magistrate judge. Five years later, she became the state’s first Latina U.S. District Court judge.

For Entrepreneur Charlie Patel, Old Ways Spawn Web Innovation
Charlie Patel spent his youth helping his family making ends meet with odd jobs. Today he’s used that entrepreneurial spirit to co-found a digital marketing agency.

The Mustafas Are Teaching Their Kids to Achieve
Khaldiya Mustafa, principal of Al-Ghazaly High School in Wayne, and her husband Mustafa imbue their children with pride in their Muslim heritage.

Deportation is an Ever Present Threat for The Coto Family
The Coto family seem to be the typical all-American family. They own a business. They pay their taxes. There’s just one difference: They’re undocumented.

Filipino School Founder Venessa Manzano is Preserving Her Culture
Much of Venessa Manzano’s life’s work has focused on preserving Filipino culture. In 2008, she founded the Filipino School of New York and New Jersey, a nonprofit focused on keeping Filipino traditions and history alive.

Paterson Teacher Sunjoo Hwang Kim Lives a Life in Two Worlds
Paterson teacher Sunjoo Hwang Kim once felt like an outside in America. Now, she embraces the traditions of both the US and her native South Korea.

Trial, Error, and Success For Perth Amboy’s Dominicans
Seventy-eight percent of Perth Amboy’s population of about 53,000 is Latino. Dominicans are the largest subgroup, and work hard to give back to their community.

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