Gov. Chris Christie denied back-pedaling his support for a New Jersey bill that would grant in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants in a press conference Monday.
Christie’s comments reacted to a Sunday editorial published in the New Jersey Star-Ledger that criticized the Republican governor for pulling his support for a bill he largely backed before his landslide re-election victory in November.
“I said the legislature should move in the lame duck session towards tuition equality in New Jersey. Period,” Christie said Monday night. “That’s what I said. I didn’t support any particular piece of legislation. And I still support tuition equality.”
The editorial accused Christie, who won 51% of the Hispanic vote, of wooing voters with an important immigration issue in the state before his re-election, then dropping his support after his win.
“The real reason for his flip-flop? Christie has his eyes on the presidency,” the Star-Ledger wrote. “And if he has to roll over Latinos to get there, he’ll do it.”
Christie said in a radio interview last week that he would not sign the Tuition Equality Act, New Jersey’s version of the DREAM Act, because he disagrees with certain aspects of the legislation. Last month, the Democratic-controlled state Senate passed the bill in order to allow undocumented students to qualify for in-state tuition at schools and allow undocumented out-of-state residents to become eligible for the tuition if they attended a private high school in the state for at least three years.
“Giving undocumented, out-of-state students benefits that out of state citizens aren’t eligible for, I’m not in favor of,” Christie said. “So under the current piece of legislation, if you’re an undocumented student who lives in Pennsylvania, and you come over to go to private or parochial school in New Jersey, under this bill, you would then be entitled to, if you spent three years in that school, to in-state tuition. If you’re a citizen in Pennsylvania, and you come over, and spend three years, you’re not entitled to that.”
At a Latino Leadership Alliance gala in October, Christie pledged his support for in-state tuition for undocumented students.
“I believe every child should be able to give the opportunity to reach their God-given potential,” Christie said at the event, less than a month before his re-election win. “We need to make sure that we continue to work on issues that will make those children believe they have a bigger and brighter future. We need to get to work in the state legislature on things like making sure that there’s tuition equality for everybody in New Jersey.”
N.J. Senate president Steve Sweeney also said in a statement Christie’s position was a false promise solely intended to appease a national audience and gain more Hispanic votes for his re-election. “He once again turns his back on those who need us most… When he was running for governor he supported it now that he is running for President he does not,” Sweeney said.
“If Gov. Chris Christie thinks voters won’t notice if he promises one thing when he’s running for governor, then another when he’s running for president, he’s dreaming,” stated the editorial.