(CNN) – New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie blamed the Obama administration for the influx of immigrant children at the southern border, but didn't rule out the prospect of accepting children in New Jersey on a case-by-case basis.
"I have great empathy for that situation, but frankly the administration has done an awful job in securing our border, and they need to do that," Christie told reporters in Marion, Iowa, where he campaigned for incumbent Gov. Terry Branstad.
"I don't think ... it matters one bit what your Hispanic population is, as to whether or not you're going to offer help and assistance," he continued. "So we'll take every request that comes based on its merits and make those decisions."
He stressed that he doesn't want to "participate in encouraging this," but added "we are an empathetic people in this country and we don't like seeing people suffer."
Christie's comments represent a departure from some governors, who have turned down requests from officials to house immigrants during the crisis.
Thousands of children from Central America, many unaccompanied, have streamed across the U.S. border with Mexico this year in what the administration calls an unexpected surge.
All sides agree that it’s become a humanitarian crisis with the federal government struggling to manage the influx.
President Barack Obama’s $3.7 billion emergency funding proposal to address the situation has been received coolly in Congress.
Christie, a potential White House contender, further fueled speculation about his 2016 ambitions with is visit to Iowa. There, he blasted the federal government for refusing to deal with immigration reform "in any meaningful way."
While in the Hawkeye State, which holds the first nominating contest in presidential election years, Christie brushed off new poll numbers that indicate about a third of Iowans hold a negative opinion of him.
In March, Christie argued that "they love me in Iowa," saying his direct personality can translate to cultures outside of New Jersey. Asked Thursday if he thinks Iowans still like him, Christie said, “They do.”
“And every time I come here to Iowa I get a great sense of affection and respect from folks here. But, that doesn't mean that you're going to be universally loved,” he said. “And if you want to be universally loved in this business then you're the absolute poster boy for being ineffective.”