(CNN) – Republican Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey hit back at claims Monday that he flip-flopped on his position involving a big immigration issue in the Garden State.
After the New Jersey Star-Ledger ripped Christie for going back on his support for a bill that would grant in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants, Christie said he did no such thing.
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"I said the legislature should move toward tuition equality," he said Monday in a press conference. "I didn't support any particular piece of legislation. And I still support tuition equality."
Immigration activists argue Christie pledged his support for the legislation during an October gala, less than a month before he won re-election.
"I believe every child should be able to give the opportunity to reach their God-given potential," he said at the event. "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."
Last week in a radio interview, however, Christie said he would not support a bill that was passed November 18 by the Democratic-controlled state Senate that would allow undocumented students in New Jersey to qualify for in-state tuition and financial aid at state schools.
Under the legislation, known as the New Jersey DREAM Act, undocumented students would have to attend a New Jersey high school for at least three years and file documents saying they would seek legal status. Their acceptance to colleges and universities–as well as financial aid–do not count as legalization.
The Star-Ledger, which reluctantly endorsed Christie in his re-election bid, published a scathing editorial Sunday, arguing Christie was simply trying to shore up the Latino vote during his gubernatorial bid but is now switching tracks as he potentially prepares for a presidential campaign.
"The real reason for his flip-flop? Christie has his eyes on the presidency. And if he has to roll over Latinos to get there, he'll do it," the editorial stated.
According to CNN exit polls, Christie won 51% of the Latino vote.
Christie said Monday that perhaps he "was imprecise" in his previous language about tuition equality but argued he opposes the legislation for multiple reasons. First, the bill allows out-of-state residents to become eligible for in-state tuition if they go to a private high school in New Jersey.
"Getting undocumented, out-of-state students benefits that out-of-state citizens aren't eligible for, I'm not in favor of it," he said.
He also said the New Jersey DREAM Act doesn't put a time limit on undocumented students who would qualify for in-state tuition. For example, he pointed to a federal law that prevents for two years the deportation of any student seeking higher education as long as that student was in the U.S. before 2012.
"We shouldn't make our program an open-ended commitment. We should be in line with what the President has done, which was to cap it in 2012," he said.
He argued that the legislation as written will make New Jersey a magnet for undocumented immigrants who want "to come here to get these additional benefits."
"I said...that I believe in tuition equality. This is beyond tuition equality. This is tuition equality plus plus plus," he argued. "I'm not putting the taxpayers of this state at any greater burden on this. Send me tuition equality, I'm willing now to do that. Send me tuition equality plus, or plus plus, or plus plus plus–and I'm not signing it. It's that simple."