After both headlines and some activists in New Jersey called Chris Christie a flip flopper on an important state immigration issue this week, a Democratic group is trying to align the New Jersey governor with controversial Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa.
American Bridge, a Democratic super PAC, is pouncing on Christie for not supporting a bill passed in the Democratic-controlled state Senate that would grant in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants.
ABC News got a sneak peak of a new video the group is out with, which highlights Christie pledging support for in-state tuition for undocumented students at both a gubernatorial debate and the Latino Leadership Alliance gala in October, less than a month before his landslide re-election victory where he received 51 percent of the Hispanic vote.
It then shows Christie in a radio interview last week where he said he would not support the bill, known as the New Jersey DREAM Act. The video also includes a scathing editorial from the New Jersey Star-Ledger on Sunday that said Christie did a “flip flop” because his eyes are now set on 2016. The video ends with footage of Christie campaigning for Steve King in Iowa in 2012 with Christie saying to the audience: “Steve King, that’s a guy I choose to stand with.”
American Bridge is not putting any money behind the video right now.
American Bridge is also adding Christie to a list the group started in August that aligned other GOP politicians with King after his controversial claim that undocumented youth tend to be drug mules with “calves the size of cantaloupes” rather than good students. The website titled “All Steve King’s Men” added Christie to a list that includes 27 other Republicans and highlights inflammatory statements they have made on the issue of immigration.
In a news conference Monday, Christie was asked about the issue and said he still supports “tuition equality,” but he does not support the legislation because though it would allow undocumented students in New Jersey to qualify for in-state tuition at state schools it would also allow undocumented out-of-state residents to be eligible for in-state tuition if they attended an in-state private high school for at least three years.
“Giving undocumented, out-of-state students benefits that out-of-state citizens aren’t eligible for, I’m not in favor of,” Christie said Monday. “So under the current piece of legislation, if you’re an undocumented student who lives in Pennsylvania, and you come over to go to private or parochial school in New Jersey, under this bill, you would then be entitled to, if you spent three years in that school, to in-state tuition. If you’re a citizen in Pennsylvania, and you come over, and spend three years, you’re not entitled to that.”
Christie called it an “inequity that is pretty easily cleared up and cleaned up,” but the state Senate has “refused to do that.”
However, the executive director of the ACLU of New Jersey, Udi Ofer explains the legislation actually does not make a distinction between undocumented students and U.S. citizens. Instead, all students, no matter their immigration status, will pay state tuition as long as they attend a New Jersey high school for three years and graduate or receive a GED from a New Jersey high school.
“It is not true that out of state, undocumented students will be treated differently than out of state United States citizens,” Ofer told ABC News. “In fact in this legislation all students will be treated the same regardless of whether they are U.S. citizens or not.”
In the Star-Ledger editorial, the newspaper said Christie was trying to appeal to Hispanic voters before his re-election, but is now switching his viewpoint because he is getting ready for a presidential campaign in 2016.
“The real reason for his flip-flop? Christie has his eyes on the presidency. And if he has to roll over Latinos to get there, he’ll do it,” reads the editorial, which is also included in the American Bridge video.
Christie also said Monday the state DREAM Act should be more in line with the president’s executive action that prevents for two years the deportation of any student seeking higher education as long as they were in the United States before 2012.
“We shouldn’t make our program an open ended commitment,” Christie said. “We should be in line with what the president has done, which is to cap it at 2012. Now, if they get to 2014, and they still don’t have federal immigration reform, then the president is going to have to make some judgment as to whether he wants to extend the executive action he took, and then New Jersey should react to that.”
In Christie’s speech to the Latino Leadership Alliance in October he did pledge his support for “tuition equality” in the state, but he also warned the group: “In the same way we have to remember who our friends are, we have to remember who our friends are not. That’s just as important because especially this time of year, 24 days before an election, I’m willing to bet that everybody wants to be your friend. … You should make your decisions based upon what they promise you they will do and then hold them to it. Too many promises to this community have been broken.”
It’s that promise that Democrats are trying to convince Latino voters Christie has already broken three years ahead of a possible presidential run.
This story has been updated since it was first posted.