Christie reaches immigration deal with N.J. Democrats
December 19th, 2013
04:26 PM ET
7 months ago

Christie reaches immigration deal with N.J. Democrats

(CNN) - New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Thursday touted an agreement he struck earlier in the day with state Democratic lawmakers that will give in-state tuition for Garden State students who are living in the country illegally.

The Republican Governor and likely 2016 GOP presidential contender also pushed back against claims two top Christie aides closed access lanes to the George Washington Bridge to retaliate against the Mayor of Fort Lee, New Jersey, who didn't endorse his re-election bid.

And possibly hinting at his presidential aspirations, Christie said the man who steered his 2009 election for governor and this year's landslide re-election will now be "available to do additional work for me in the political realm"

Christie touts immigration deal

Christie praised the agreement he struck with state Senate Democrats on tuition equality, saying: "What we're doing is taking a step forward today that allows folks that we have heavily invested in to be able to avail themselves of in-state tuition rates, which will mean a significant savings to them."

State Democratic lawmakers had been pushing for a bill that would have also offered state tuition assistance grants, but Christie pushed back against such additional aid.

"What I was trying to do all along was to get to what I promised, which was tuition equality. I didn't promise tuition assistance grants or financial aid. I promised tuition equality, and the bill that will be approve into law today, I hope, is exactly what that will be."

Earlier this month, Christie was sharply criticized by the Newark Star-Ledger for allegedly flip-flopping his position on granting in-state tuition for undocumented students.

At Thursday's news conference, the Governor quipped that he would wait for apology letters to come from those who said he was not serious about the issue.

"Shame on all the people, shame on you, who accused me and others of playing politics with this issue. You were wrong and I hope you admit you were wrong," Christie added.

Asked if the deal would make undocumented students feel like second class citizens, Christie said "they can't be second class citizens if they're not citizens."

The pro-Democrat group American Bridge said Christie's response could hurt him if he runs for the White House.

"Chris Christie is trying to have it both ways... and failing. In a transparent attempt to make himself appealing to Latino voters without angering the anti-immigrant GOP base, Christie today created problems for both the primary and general elections in 2016," said American Bridge Communications Director Chris Harris, in an email to reporters.

Nationally, the GOP has struggled over the issue of immigration reform. But asked if there were wider implications from the state tuition deal, Christie said no, adding that "all I'm trying to do today is what's in the best interest of the people of New Jersey."

Hints of 2016?

Christie, who last month took over as chairman of the Republican Governors Association, praised the naming of Bill Stepien, his two-time gubernatorial campaign manager, as a consultant for the RGA.

"Bill will going there to be a consultant for the RGA, working on races across the country." I think he'll be a real asset for the RGA," Christie said.

But Christie said he likes the option of having Stepien be "available to do additional work for me in the political realm," adding that "having him available to me in this other way, now that our campaign is over, is advantageous to me."

But Christie didn't allude to what that work would entail.

Christie went in front of reporters in Trenton a few hours after news that New Jersey's unemployment rate plunged from 8.4% in October to 7.8% in November. The governor was quick to highlight the report.

"This is the single largest drop in monthly unemployment since the state's been keeping statistics," said Christie, adding that "these are all signs of a growing robust economy and job  market in this state."

The state's unemployment level still remains well above the national average. And earlier this week, a national credit rating agency, Moody’s, lowered the outlook on New Jersey’s debt from stable to negative, citing what it described as the state’s sluggish recovery.

Christie not obsessed with bridge controversy

Christie pushed back against allegations from state and national Democrats that two of his allies on the Port Authority, who have since stepped down, closed some access lanes to the George Washington Bridge in September as political retribution against the mayor of Fort Lee, who didn't join some other Democratic public officials in endorsing him.

"I don't ever remember even meeting the Mayor of Fort Lee and I certainly don't remember getting any briefings at any time from campaign staff that this was someone that was on our radar screen as a potential endorser. So that's why none of this makes any sense to me. I think in the end this will be shown to be speculation by folks who want to play political games."

The controversy has grown in recent weeks, grabbing national attention, as national and state Democrats continue to blast Christie over the episode involving the busiest bridge in the country. There are now both state and federal investigations into why the access lanes were closed.

While Christie once again acknowledged that "mistakes were made," he said he's not consumed with the controversy.

"I know you guys are obsessed with it, I'm not. I'm really not," Christie said. "It's just not that big a deal. Just because the press goes around and writes about it, both here and nationally, I know why that is and so do you. Let's not pretend that it’s because of the gravity of the issue. It's because I am a national figure and anything like this will be written about a lot more."

Thursday's news conference was Christie's second in a week where answered questioned about the controversy.

The Democratic National Committee, which has taken the party's lead in attacking Christie, was quick to respond to his comments.

"It’s been over 100 days since the lanes were closed onto the busiest bridge in the world, and instead of answering basic questions about why the lanes were blocked, Chris Christie still thinks  'it’s not that big a deal.' Because of the Christie administration's actions, some commutes took four hours instead of 30 minutes; children were unable to get to the first day of school on time; and emergency responders were diverted," DNC Press Secretary Michael Czin said in a statement.


Filed under: 2016 • Chris Christie
soundoff (35 Responses)
  1. Malory Archer

    He's just using this as a distraction from "Bridgegate".

    December 19, 2013 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  2. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    Good move for him politically.

    December 19, 2013 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  3. Winning

    Oh man the teatrolls are going to completely flip out over this.

    December 19, 2013 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  4. Sniffit

    "Just – Where do you get your misinformation? So much hate from such a small mind."

    Haha...actually, that's kind of a rule of the universe...the whole inverse proportionality of the hate and mind thing.

    December 19, 2013 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  5. just saying

    way to pander to the illegals and hispanics christie... do you think this is going to help you carry any red states? nope. they are still going to vote against you no matter what you do. but it sure may cost you some red states.

    December 19, 2013 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  6. Thomas

    VIVA Christie 2016 !

    December 19, 2013 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  7. Tampa Tim

    It appears that Krispy has stepped in it big time. There goes his run for the White House. He is just another Giuliani.

    December 19, 2013 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  8. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    Ahhh! Trying deflect attention from your GWB scandal.

    December 19, 2013 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  9. Tampa Tim

    I hope Donna, Peppy, Rick M, Yolanda, and Just, don't find out that Krispy caved to the democrats

    December 19, 2013 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  10. Tampa Tim

    The Koch sniffers will be happy, because Jeb Bush is their candidate.

    December 19, 2013 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  11. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    @just saying
    way to pander to the illegals and hispanics christie... do you think this is going to help you carry any red states? nope. they are still going to vote against you no matter what you do. but it sure may cost you some red states.

    You really are an ignorant, hateful person. You must have had a horrific childhood to be as negative and mean as you seem. I feel sorry for you.

    December 19, 2013 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  12. Sniffit

    So he's happy that his buddy, who has been buying up all sorts of domain names that use Democrats' names, while he was working the NJ gov't, is "now" able to "start" working in the political field on his behalf?

    December 19, 2013 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  13. pkMyt1

    The GOP right will be feasting on his carcass for this when he tries to get the nomination.

    December 19, 2013 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  14. Lynda/Minnesota

    Call it a night, Chris Christie and be thankful you got as far as you got politically.
    It's the end of the road.
    No U-turns allowed.

    December 19, 2013 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  15. anonymous

    "bridgegate".... too funny. liberals think it is a big deal when people get stuck in traffic but not when 4 americans get abandoned and killed due to obama-clinton incompetence.

    December 19, 2013 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  16. If Obama Had A Son It Would Look Like Pajama Boy

    Taxpayers are subsidizing the education of non-citizens?

    December 19, 2013 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  17. Carlos

    What a HORRIBLE idea this is, granting in-state tuition for those students who are living in the country illegally. Why are we subsidizing higher education for these individuals, when they are not even U.S. Citizens?? If they are NOT U.S. CITIZENS, they should NOT be given ANY benefits granted to U.S. Citizens. As an AMERICAN CITIZEN of Hispanic decent, this is simply catering to the liberal, Socialist ideology that is prevalent in our society today. We keep handing out subsidies to everyone, all the while the national debit of this country is over $17 trillion dollars, and rising. How are these subsidies going to be paid for?? Oh that's right, let's just tax those individuals are working to pay for this. Sounds a lot like redistribution of wealth...

    December 19, 2013 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  18. Gurgyl

    Pathetic thing is none of these idiots are properly thinking about this nation nonetheless these idiots are born in USA, I mean "jus soli" citizens here. Very pathetic. These guys want illegal support!!! I bet illegals are more in number than legals. I can not burst my laughter. USA needs stricter immigration laws. While citizens don't find Jon's, why on earth USA need illegals? Deport all visa overstays, violators. That India lady was cheating, then crying–all just say karma, hold your heads!!!! God bless!!

    December 19, 2013 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  19. Sniffit

    Meanwhile, CNN pays zero attention whatsoever to a scandal that, if it turns out to have direct links to Christie, would indicate that he grossly violated his duty to protect the health and welfare of NJ residents, violated his oath of office, etc., and currently has as much evidentiary support for his connections to it as the evidence in the scandals CNN helped the GOP/Teatrolls turn into 24/7 national news in terms of Obama's connections, etc. IOKIYAR

    December 19, 2013 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  20. bcrunner

    He is a bully!! Plain and simple! Now he is trying to soften his imagine...

    December 19, 2013 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  21. just saying

    Sniffit
    he grossly violated his duty to protect the health and welfare of NJ residents, violated his oath of office,
    -–

    obama has done this for 5 years now for all americans.... yet you don't care. why is that? couldn't be skin color could it?

    December 19, 2013 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  22. Tampa Tim

    Just – Stupid statements like yours are usually ignored. Do not say 'all Americans' as your viewpoint is only shared by Birthers, baggers, and bigots. That is less than 30% of real Americans. (Although it is a majority of brain dead republicans)

    December 19, 2013 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  23. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Lynda/Minnesota

    Call it a night, Chris Christie and be thankful you got as far as you got politically.
    It's the end of the road.
    No U-turns allowed.
    -------------------------------------------------
    Yup. That pretty much sealed his fate with the Teatards and the RWNJs which is what the current Republican base is comprised of as one can clearly see from those that post on this blog.
    Furthermore Lynda, he keeps touting being able to work with Democrats in his state.
    Well who the hell else is he going to work with in New Jersey? It's a Blue state. Democrats get elected into office there.
    Duh.

    December 19, 2013 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  24. Malory Archer

    anonymous
    "bridgegate".... too funny. liberals think it is a big deal when people get stuck in traffic but not when 4 americans get abandoned and killed due to obama-clinton incompetence.

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    That was a tongue in cheek remark making fun of your ilk who accuse President Obama of using whatever he's doing at the moment to distract from the right wing scandal of the day. Now perhaps you'll realize just how ridiculous your ilk sounds when they do it.

    That being said, this investigation is just getting started, and you can bet that anybody in Fort Lee who lost a loved one after calling 911 that day is going to demand in inquiry into whether the outcome might have been different for their loved one if first responders weren't delayed by the bridge closure.

    December 19, 2013 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  25. Malory Archer

    just saying
    Sniffit
    he grossly violated his duty to protect the health and welfare of NJ residents, violated his oath of office,
    -–

    obama has done this for 5 years now for all americans.... yet you don't care. why is that? couldn't be skin color could it?

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Examples please?

    December 19, 2013 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
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