Immigration Reform 2013: In Reversal Of Position, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie Supports ‘Tuition Equality’ For Young Undocumented [VIDEO]

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
Image Reuters

In 2011, New Jersey governor Chris Christie said he'd veto the Tuition Equality Act - a bill offering in-state tuition for Jersey colleges to any student who attended high school in the state for three years or more, including undocumented immigrants - if the bill came to his desk, citing the cost. "I can't in a difficult time of budget constraints support the idea that we should be giving money in that regard to people who haven't followed the rules, and take that money from people who have," he said then. But in a speech in New Brunswick at a dinner hosted by the Latino Leadership Alliance of New Jersey over the weekend, the governor signaled that he had reversed his stance on the issue.

"We are going to try to work on it," Governor Christie told the audience, which included state Latino leaders from Republican and Democratic parties. "We will get it done in the Lame Duck." According to NBC Latino, Christie went on to call for Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform, saying, "I believe every child should be given the opportunity to reach their God-given potential...that's a moral requirement. 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."

The event was part of a campaign event for the Republican governor, who leads Democrat Barbara Buono by a large margin. Buono has ripped the governor for his previous opposition to the Tuition Equality Act, which remains stalled in the New Jersey legislature. In New Brunswick in early September, Buono said many young undocumented immigrants who grew up in the state were being dissuaded from going to college there because of the high cost - at Rutgers University, the state's biggest university, tuition is $13,499 a year for in-state students and $27,523 for out-of-staters.

In 2011, Christie criticized Texas governor Rick Perry for his support for a policy which extends the right to in-state tuition at public universities in Texas to young undocumented immigrants. Christie called opposing the extension of that right a "common-sense position". He has also opposed giving undocumented immigrants the right to get a driver's license. But he has also earned the wrath of anti-undocumented-immigration groups like NumbersUSA, which gives him an "F" on the issue, in part for comments like one made in 2008 which derided the use of the term "illegal immigrant". The New Jersey governor said then that the phrase "connotes that the person, by just being here, is committing a crime," adding, "Don't let people make you believe that that's a crime that the U.S. attorney's office should be doing something about."

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David Iaconangelo is a Brooklyn-based writer and translator.  Formerly editor of ZafraLit, a blog of new short fiction from Cuba.  He has lived in and reported from various Latin American countries.