Chris Christie has given his conservative detractors another “hug” to complain about.
About two hours after holding a ceremonial signing New Jersey’s version of the “Dream Act,” Gov. Chris Christie tweeted a photo with one of the “Dreamers” the law will benefit, a New Jersey high school student who immigrated to the U.S. without authorization at a young age:
From a likely presidential contender in 2016, it’s an interesting tweet. And it shows that Christie is willing to own immigration reform heading into what promises to be another contentious debate on an issue that divides much of the Republican establishment from much of its base.
On Tuesday, Christie made good on a campaign promise and held a ceremonial signing of New Jersey’s version of the DREAM Act, which allows unauthorised immigrants who have lived in New Jersey for three years and graduated from an in-state high school to pay in-state college tuition rates. Previously, many “Dreamers” were paying close to double that rate (the normal out-of-state tuition rate) because of their non-legal status.
“You are an inspiration to us. You’re an inspiration to us because in you we see all that the future of our country can be,” Christie said at a press conference on Tuesday after the ceremonial signing.
“In you, we see the infinite possibilities that exist in a human mind that’s challenged and taught and maximized. In you, most importantly, we see the infinite possibilities of the human spirit, that all of you, with a good heart, caring about not only yourselves but your neighbours, your friends, and your family, can make our country a better place.”
From his campaign, Christie walked a delicate line on the issue — one that strode carefully along both his state and national ambitions.
During his re-election campaign, Christie said that he supported the concept of undocumented students paying in-state tuition. At the Latino Leadership Alliance of New Jersey gala in October, Christie said he believed “that every child should be given the opportunity to reach their God-given potential.”
But immigration advocates accused him of reneging on that campaign promise and running away from the issue during the lame-duck session of the New Jersey legislature.
The Star-Ledger blasted Christie in a scathing editorial in early December, after he said in a radio interview that he wouldn’t support a state Senate-passed version of the bill.
In the end, Christie reached a compromise with Democrats. He conditionally vetoed the bill, striking from it a provision that would have allowed students access to state financial aid programs, including Tuition Aid Grants. He was able to sign the bill so that students would be eligible before the start of a new semester.
Christie hasn’t run from the issue of immigration reform, though it should be noted that the Dream Act is much less in scope than a comprehensive approach that is being explored nationally. But in July last year, he acknowledged the need to fix a “broken system” and called for a revamped system that was “fair” — not just for “American citizens, also those people who are here, the 11, 12 million you’re talking about.”
And in taking a lead on the Dream Act, Christie is running away from many members of his party with the same presidential ambitions.
“Our job, I believe as a government, is to give every one of these children — who we have already invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in — an opportunity to maximise that investment for their own benefit, for the benefit of their families, and for the benefit of our state and our country,” Christie said on Tuesday.
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