Even moderates in the GOP like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie are running scared from comprehensive immigration reform, knowing that such a plan is politically devastating for any of them.
Appearing on This Week with George Stephanopoulos Sunday, the former Bill Clinton aide asked Christie multiple times if he supports a “pathway to citizenship” for America’s at least 11 million illegal immigrants–terminology that means amnesty. Christie dodged each time.
When talking about 2016 prospects–Christie is expected to run for president in 2016, and has been claiming he is a “conservative” since he was re-elected governor of New Jersey last week–Stephanopoulos asked the governor about immigration.
“One issue that’s sure to come up is immigration,” the one-time Democratic operative asked Christie, according to a transcript published on ABC News’ website. “You mentioned that you got a majority of the Latino vote in your re-election. And you’re for a path to citizenship. You also said that undocumented students in New Jersey should get in-state tuition rates. Do you think other states should adopt that policy as well?”
Christie’s first response did not refer to a “pathway to citizenship.” Instead, he focused on speaking in generalities about immigration.
“Listen, I think nationally, they have to fix a broken system,” Christie said. “And I think this is one of the real frustrations that people across the country have on this and a myriad of other issues is they look at what governors do, like in New Jersey, where we confront problems, we debate them, we argue about them, then we get to a table, we come to an agreement, we fix them and we move on. And in Washington, that seems to almost never happens.”
Christie added in that answer he thinks people need to “move on” from immigration talk.
“And so I think, 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,” Christie said. “Well, let’s have our argument out publicly, then let’s get to the table, come to a consensus and then move on.”
Stephanopoulos was clearly unsatisfied with Christie’s first answer, so he followed up: “So–but do you think that national solution should include both a path to citizenship and that relief on in-state college tuition?”
Christie again dodged whether he would support a pathway to citizenship.
“I think the national solution has to be–has to be figured out by the people who are in charge of our national government,” he said.
My job is to fix what’s going on in New Jersey. But I will tell you this, George, we’re not going to be able to fix all the things we need in New Jersey until national leaders set a national immigration policy. That’s federal law, federal policy that needs to be fixed. It’s a broken system, it’s not working for the economy, it’s not working for the individuals who are affected by it. It’s not working for the governments. So we need to get them in a room, the president needs to lead and members of congress need to do it, too. And if they do that, then I think it will help our economy and help our country if we get to some resolution.
Stephanopoulos was again clearly unsatisfied with Christie’s non-answer, so he followed up a third time: “Including a path to citizenship?”
Christie dodged again. “George, I don’t get to make those determinations, the folks in Washington, D.C.,” Christie said instead of answering the question.
“But you get to have an opinion,” Stephanopoulos retorted.
Christie then dodged the pathway to citizenship question a fourth time.
“Well, listen, I can have an opinion about lots of things, George, but we’re not going to go through all that this morning, are we?” Christie said. “It’s 2013 and I just got elected the governor of New Jersey again. So, the fact is, I have already said what I believe, which is it’s a broken system and it needs to be fixed. Now let’s get to work doing it. And to the extent they want contributions from governors based on our on the ground experience, I’m happy to contribute to that debate and discussion. But right now, there’s nothing going on.”
Christie’s approach makes perfect sense after what happened to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)–who has since effectively withdrawn his support for the Senate’s “Gang of Eight” immigration bill of which he was the lead cosponsor–in polling data and what is starting to happen to House Budget Committee chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI).