Christie heralds DREAM Act as message to Washington
January 7th, 2014
01:01 PM ET
3 months ago

Christie heralds DREAM Act as message to Washington

Updated 1:41 p.m. ET, 1/7/2014

Union City, New Jersey (CNN) - Flanked by Hispanic leaders, students, and immigration reform advocates, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie celebrated the signing of his state's so-called DREAM Act on Tuesday, hailing the new law a sound economic choice and an object lesson in bipartisan cooperation.

"We know that when we bring people together, when we work together despite some of our differences, that we also set an example of optimism for every one of the 8.9 million people who live here," Christie said at a signing event in Union City, a Hispanic stronghold just across the Hudson River from Manhattan.

"Unlike what happens in Washington, that government can actually work for you," he added. "That things can actually get done, that agreements can be reached, and that commitments can be kept."

The bill grants in-state college tuition rates to undocumented high school graduates who attended a New Jersey high school for at least three years.

To the dismay of Democrats and some reform advocates who had lobbied for a more expansive bill, Christie vetoed a measure that would allow students to be eligible for New Jersey financial aid packages.

The mood inside the elementary school auditorium that housed the event at was nevertheless triumphant, as a handful of speakers praised Christie and beseeched young immigrants to take advantage of the academic opportunity afforded to them under the law.

"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 maximize the investment for their benefit, for the benefit of their families, for the benefit of our state and the country," Christie said.

"Even if you're cold-hearted about this, you can agree with the common sense of the economics: An investment made should be an investment maximized," he said.

Christie privately signed the bill in late December so it would take hold in time for the Spring 2014 semester. In-state tuition at some New Jersey colleges and universities is as much as $15,000 cheaper than the out-of-state cost. Aides said he decided to arrange a public ceremonial signing this week to honor the range of advocates, legislators and Hispanic leaders who had pressed for the new law.

Christie opposed the legislation until last year on the grounds that the state could not afford the tuition breaks, but he changed his position at the height of his re-election campaign, saying that the state's economic outlook had improved, a move that his critics called a cynical ploy to appeal to the state's Hispanic community.

Christie aggressively courted Hispanic voters throughout his race with targeted voter outreach and over $1 million on Spanish-language television and radio ads. He eventually won re-election by capturing a majority of Hispanic voters, a resonant talking point for Christie as Republicans try to burnish their dreary reputation among Spanish-speakers, the country's fastest-growing voting bloc.

In laying the groundwork for an increasingly likely presidential campaign in 2016, Christie has been framing himself as a Republican with wide-reaching national appeal, willing to work with Democrats in Trenton, and tangle with some of his party's more conservative voices, including Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and other self-styled tea party leaders.

"We live in a world where people believe compromise is a dirty word," Christie said. "We all have principles that we want to stand up and fight for. But then I believe the obligation of anyone who is the governor of a state, or those members of the legislature elected by their constituents, they have an obligation to sit in a room around the table and advance the interests of the people who gave them these jobs in the first place."

The decision to hold Tuesday's event in Union City, just across the Hudson River from Manhattan, was freighted with finely-tuned political symbolism: The city's mayor, a Democrat, endorsed the governor's re-election bid last year. Union City is more than 80% Hispanic and voted overwhelming for President Obama in 2012, but Christie carried the city last November over his Democratic opponent, little known state lawmaker Barbara Buono.

The governor chuckled when Martin Perez, the president of the Latino Leadership Alliance of New Jersey, a coalition of Latino community leaders from around the state, mistakenly introduced him Christie as "the governor of Puerto Rico." Perez said he had pressed three successive administrations to pass the tuition bill, but his advocacy fell on deaf ears.

"Finally we have governor who made a commitment to us," he said. "The good thing about this governor is that when he makes his commitment, you have to understand that he will deliver the goods."

Christie applauded when Perez called on the United States Congress to "follow the example of New Jersey" and pass immigration reform this year. A comprehensive bipartisan immigration overhaul passed the Democratic controlled Senate last summer but ran into a brick wall in the GOP-run House, though Speaker John Boehner has signaled that he may try to pass a series of smaller-scale reform bills.

Christie's decision to extend financial assistance to undocumented immigrants could be met with hostility by conservative activists in the primary and caucus states that shape the Republican presidential nominating process. During the Republican primary fight of 2012, Texas Gov. Rick Perry's support cratered when he forcefully defended his own state's version of the DREAM Act and suggested that critics of that bipartisan tuition bill did not "have a heart."

There is evidence to suggest, however, that early state Republicans are not as opposed to immigration reform as conventional wisdom suggests. In December 2011, in the final weeks before the Iowa caucuses, a New York Times/CBS News poll, only a fraction of Iowa Republicans ranked illegal immigration as the issue most important factoring into their vote.

Meanwhile, a full 62% of Iowa Republicans said they would be willing to back a candidate who did not share their views on immigration. Perry and Newt Gingrich, each of whom staked out more moderate positions on the issue during their campaigns, earned more support on the issue in Iowa than eventual GOP nominee Mitt Romney, who took a harder-line on immigration and went on to lose the national Hispanic vote badly to President Obama.


Filed under: Chris Christie • DREAM act • Immigration
soundoff (31 Responses)
  1. Malory Archer

    Oh dear! This is going to leave the right awfully conflicted. He's their golden boy! What will they do now?!

    January 7, 2014 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  2. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    Good way to deflect attention away from GWBgate. That being said, Christie's passing of this legislation is something that will be held against him in a republican primary. Just wait & see. Gov. Perry had it right: The GOP has no heart.

    January 7, 2014 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  3. The Real Tom Paine

    -Malory Archer

    Oh dear! This is going to leave the right awfully conflicted. He's their golden boy! What will they do now?!
    ***********************
    Tear him down, of course: he's contradicted their gospel about excluding people.

    January 7, 2014 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  4. Sniffit

    LOL. And he got it done because he has a Dem state legislature. Guess why the federal gov't isn't getting it done. Guess.

    January 7, 2014 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  5. Sniffit

    "Good way to deflect attention away from GWBgate. "

    You mean....BRIDGEGHAZI!!!!!

    January 7, 2014 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  6. jinx9to88

    Christie won't make out of the Repub primaries!!!

    January 7, 2014 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  7. just asking

    Sniffit
    LOL. And he got it done because he has a Dem state legislature. Guess why the federal gov't isn't getting it done. Guess.
    ---

    because there are federal laws against illegal aliens??? that say they should be deported, not rewarded.

    January 7, 2014 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  8. Lynda/Minnesota

    Goodness. An article filled with biased hogwash if ever I've seen one:

    "There is evidence to suggest, however, that early state Republicans are not as opposed to immigration reform as conventional wisdom suggests."

    And this little nugget:

    "In laying the groundwork for an increasingly likely presidential campaign in 2016, Christie has been framing himself as a Republican with wide-reaching national appeal, willing to work with Democrats in Trenton, and tangle with some of his party's more conservative voices, including Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and other self-styled tea party leaders."

    All the wash over in the world isn't going to get Chris Christie elected President of the United States. Oh, well. Continue on, CNN. Continue onward.

    January 7, 2014 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  9. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Please, I know that Christie is not trying to give unsolicited advise to our President, or trying to show him up is he?
    Christie: apples and bricks babe.
    You got your Dream Act through a reasonable, sensible Democratic legislature.
    The President is dealing with your cray-cray, don't-care-how-it-hurts-the-country, do-nothing GOP brethren in Washington, who are ruled by the motto " If Obama is for it, we're against it, even if we were for it before".
    Huge. HUGE difference.
    Take credit for your weight loss instead. That's definitely all about you.

    January 7, 2014 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  10. Sniffit

    "Sniffit
    LOL. And he got it done because he has a Dem state legislature. Guess why the federal gov't isn't getting it done. Guess.
    -

    because there are federal laws against illegal aliens??? that say they should be deported, not rewarded."

    Yawn. And BTW, there is no federal law in existence that says Congress cannot enact immigration reform in the form of what has passed the Senate, in a form similar to what the Dems in the NJ state legislature just passed so Christie could sign it or in any other form Congress sees fit. So no...your "the laws says they should not be rewarded" nonsense just doesn't fly. I won't bother to detail all of Obama's record setting in terms of deportation or border defense or the massive border defense increases included in the Senate bill...you've heard (and ignored) it all before.

    January 7, 2014 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  11. Rusty Krus

    @Just asking
    because there are federal laws against illegal aliens??? that say they should be deported, not rewarded.

    Hey genious. Did you have the same english teacher as George W. Bush?

    January 7, 2014 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  12. The Real Tom Paine

    -just asking

    Sniffit
    LOL. And he got it done because he has a Dem state legislature. Guess why the federal gov't isn't getting it done. Guess.
    -

    because there are federal laws against illegal aliens??? that say they should be deported, not rewarded.
    *******************************
    So, are you willing to pay for your little pet project here, or do you do your usual demand it be offset somewhere else? The truth is, you need illegals to have a whipping post to get your ignorant base to ignore how little they GOP has been willing to do for them.

    January 7, 2014 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  13. al thomas

    i'd rather have kids attending college than joining
    gangs in Houston, Detroit or Newark. i'm sure the
    red neck tea partiers in Alabama, Miss or Louisiana
    have no idea what i'm talking about. they seldom get past the 3rd grade

    January 7, 2014 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  14. Karen

    Christie is a good vote getter, but NJ unemployment is sky high. Sounds like the media is positioning him to win a primary so they can destroy his record.

    January 7, 2014 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  15. Hector Slagg

    Well,
    Break out the Food Stamps, Print up the Welfare Checks, Continue to raise the National Debt. I am reminded of the Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire. Nero Rules!

    January 7, 2014 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  16. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    He's my Governor and he's terrible.

    January 7, 2014 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  17. wendel

    ditto Ma Ma for Obama. Christie is so blatent in his presidential run he will do and say anything. Helps that democratic congress was behind him 100%

    January 7, 2014 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  18. Sniffit

    "ause there are federal laws against illegal aliens??? that say they should be deported, not rewarded.

    Hey genious. Did you have the same english teacher as George W. Bush?"

    Our Teatrolls is learning!

    January 7, 2014 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  19. Lynda/Minnesota

    "Take credit for your weight loss instead. That's definitely all about you."

    If this is a recent photo of him, his weight loss is negatively affecting him. He looks worn out and none too healthy. Most folks usually become more appealing when losing weight. Maybe it's just my own perception, but Christie just doesn't look healthy. Who knows: maybe it is just a bad photo.

    January 7, 2014 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  20. current state of the union

    Hector, we all know how misinformed you are, but you keep proving it with every post, poor fool. Some men you just can't reach

    January 7, 2014 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  21. Econ301

    I'm a little confused as to why he vetoed allowing them to apply for Financial Aid. Most Financial Aid is in the form of low interest loans, and is borrowed by the student and later repaid by the student. It's not like they are just handing out free money.

    I don't really get the grounds for that decision, can someone help me understand?

    January 7, 2014 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  22. much thunder..little rain

    next president needs to be 60/40...not to far either side..christie may be the guy

    January 7, 2014 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  23. Rudy NYC

    The bill grants in-state college tuition rates to undocumented high school graduates who attended a New Jersey high school for at least three years.
    ----------------------
    Does anyone recall that debate moment when Gov. Perry made a similar suggestion and was resoundingly BOOED?

    January 7, 2014 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  24. just asking

    The Real Tom Paine
    -just asking
    Sniffit
    LOL. And he got it done because he has a Dem state legislature. Guess why the federal gov't isn't getting it done. Guess.
    -
    because there are federal laws against illegal aliens??? that say they should be deported, not rewarded.
    *******************************
    So, are you willing to pay for your little pet project here, or do you do your usual demand it be offset somewhere else? The truth is, you need illegals to have a whipping post to get your ignorant base to ignore how little they GOP has been willing to do for them
    --

    absolutely. it will save this country hundreds of billions in the long run. i'll take all of the billions currently wasted on failed green energy boondoogles as well as all of the bogus research money for the sex lives of gnats.

    there is a saying. what you reward, you get more of. if have kept rewarding illegal aliens, and of course we keep getting more and more of them. isn't that what our laws are meant to do? punish illegal activity? but instead, obama and the democrats want to reward it. meanwhile our borders remain porous and more and more come.

    just like the unemployment spending, it is never ending left to the democrats.

    January 7, 2014 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  25. alex

    Econ301 – because, as much as he wants to pander to the Hispanic community, in his heart, he really is a Capitalist Republican. And if there's anything that a Republican is more afraid of than a voting Hispanic, it's an educated voting Hispanic. He knows very well that most, not all, but most of these students still won't be able to afford that in-state tuition. It's just smoke and mirrors. But I do give him credit for allowing his Democratic Legislature to govern the state.

    January 7, 2014 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
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