Republican Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey became the 14th candidate to announce his candidacy for the GOP presidential nomination. He’s highlighting his reputation as a straight-talking Governor by making his campaign motto “telling it like it is.” Yet, despite that slogan his campaign launch and official campaign website do not make clear his view on immigration policy. However, if we reach back a bit and review past legislative actions and comments made on the campaign trail we can learn a bit about what U.S. immigration policy might look like under a Christie Administration.
In 2014, Christie signed a bill allowing young undocumented immigrants to access in-state tuition. He expressed both the economic and moral imperative of providing undocumented immigrants equal access to education in order to maximize their contributions to not only New Jersey, but the country as well:
“We have already invested in these young men and women and they deserve the same opportunity to harness their talents and reach their full potential as anybody else who grew up and attended school in New Jersey…I believe every child should be given the opportunity to reach their God-give potential…that’s a moral requirement.”
However, in 2015, he was less progressive on granting driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants, Christie said, “I cannot give drivers licenses to people who I cannot be sure who they are and it’s that simple. I’m not doing it. And I’ve had that position right from the beginning.”
But with respect to federal reforms to immigration, he described how to achieve consensus in a 2013 interview:
“…listen, everybody has got to sit at a table, everyone is going to have a point of view on immigration, and a myriad of other issues. Well, let’s have our argument out publicly, then let’s get to the table, come to a consensus and then move on.”
More recently in New Hampshire he discussed moving beyond an enforcement-only to a more comprehensive approach to shaping immigration policy:
“Walls can be gotten over. The reason people come here is to work. So if we clamp down on folks who are hiring people in this manner, once we set up a fair system that everybody is signed on to, then I think we’ll really decrease” the amount of new illegal immigrants.”
Yet, despite his consensus approach he has set himself firmly against the President’s use of executive action on immigration , publicly condemning the President’s deferred action initiatives and joining the lawsuit challenging the measures that would grant deportation relief for up to 4-5 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S.
Governor Christie has shown himself to be fairly practical on some state immigration issues, however he is still poorly informed on how driver’s licensing and deferred action initiatives for the undocumented actually help make our nation more secure as we better track who is here by providing them documentation and the ability to participate in the formal U.S. economy. He is still a ways from telling it like it is on immigration, but we’ll continue watching.
Photo by Michael Vadon