Christie makes a show of signing NJ DREAM Act
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R) joined a slew of Democratic lawmakers today in a ceremonial signing of the so-called New Jersey DREAM Act. In front of an audience of largely Hispanic students in Union City, Christie put his pen to a reproduction of the bill for the news cameras. The governor signed the actual bill into law three weeks ago, after reaching a compromise with the Democratic controlled legislature.
The DREAM Act grants in-state tuition rates at New Jersey public colleges and universities to the children of illegal aliens who attended at least three years of high school in the state. Christie changed his position on the act in 2013. He opposed in-state tuition for illegals on fiscal grounds in his first term, saying that the state simply couldn’t afford it. During his re-election campaign, however, Christie said the state’s fiscal health had improved enough to warrant support for the measure. Christie went on to win a majority of Hispanics in November.
Christie was flanked at the ceremonial signing by Democratic sponsors of the bill, including the mayor of Union City, State Senator Brian Stack, who hosted a reelection rally and parade for the governor during the campaign. Sticking to what has become a consistent theme since his re-election, Christie said the compromise that paved the way for his signing the bill was an example of good governance.
“When we work together despite some of our differences…unlike what happens in Washington,” Christie told the assembled students, “government can actually work for you. Things can get actually done, agreements can be reached, and commitments can be kept.”
Making his pitch for the bill in fiscal terms, Christie told the assembled students it was right for the government to “maximize [its] investment” in their education.
“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 that investment for their own benefit, for the benefit of their families, and for the benefit of our state and our country,” Christie said.
In a throwback to the 2012 presidential campaign, Christie called opponents of in-state tuition, “cold-hearted.” That remark echoed comments Texas Governor Rick Perry made at a GOP primary debate in which said, “I don’t think [DREAM Act opponents] have a heart.” Perry was loudly booed by the debate audience and later dropped out of the race after poor showings in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Christie is widely believed to be planning a presidential campaign, too. His DREAM Act stance positions him to the left of his potential rivals for the nomination on immigration issues, and squarely in the camp of the Washington Republican establishment, which believes the GOP must gain more support from Hispanic voters to win in 2016. It also puts him on the side of those who argue that the GOP must find areas of compromise with Democrats in order to be seen as capable of governing.
Christie has a well-earned reputation as a bare-knuckles brawler willing to go toe-to-toe with Democrats; and he makes no bones about his willingness to do what it takes to win elections, telling a Republican National Committee gathering in Boston last year, “for our ideas to matter, we have to win. If we don’t win, we don’t govern.” But if he hopes to govern from the White House, Christie will have to win over Republican primary voters first. He may be betting those voters are so spoiled for a fight that they will overlook his more moderate stances on some issues.
Mark Impomeni is a freelance conservative opinion writer and blogger living in New Jersey.