After immigration reform supporters in New Jersey accused him of breaking his campaign promise, Governor Chris Christie signed his state’s version of the DREAM Act today.
“Shame on all of you who accused me and others of playing politics with this issue,” Christie said yesterday at a press conference announcing that the parties had reached a deal in the legislature. He went on to demand an apology from people who accused him backpedaling on the issue. Christie had vetoed a previous version of the bill, noting that it provided for more taxpayer funding than the federal version of the DREAM Act. He said that while he supports “tuition equality,” he could not work with the bill as it stood. This prompted the New Jersey Star-Ledger to accuse him of “roll[ing] over Latinos” after winning their vote during the gubernatorial campaign.
The bill that Christie signed today does not provide illegal immigrants with the costly Tuition Aid Grants (TAGs) that he opposed. Those grants would have made it even more affordable for illegal immigrants to go to New Jersey state schools. Instead, this bill will provide for in-state tuition costs, which are cheaper, at state universities for illegal immigrants who came to the United States by 2012 and graduated high school in New Jersey after being there for more than three years.
The bill is intended to help children who were brought to the United States illegally while they were too young to choose to do so, with a focus on lifelong residents of New Jersey. The limitations on the bill are designed to prevent New Jersey from becoming “a magnet state for undocumented immigrants,” Christie explained, in that it also prevented allowing out-of-state illegal immigrant children from taking advantage of the in-state tuition benefits.
The impact the bill will have on state universities remains to be seen, but it will likely effect thousands of students. Given the massive reduction in revenue, however, it is possible that legal students will see their education suffer or their tuition go up.
While the results of such a sweeping reform begin to reveal themselves, Christie will “be waiting for all the apology letters to come in from all people… who said I was not serious about tuition equality,” he declared at yesterday’s press conference, denying that calling for such reform was an “election prank.”
Still, the Star-Ledger notes that not all immigration reform activists are happy about the change. One activist told the newspaper that they would be waiting for the Christie administration to conclude before expecting any major changes; another said that he was displeased with the million-dollar “crumbs” that Christie has provided. Still, among Latino U.S. citizens, Christie remains popular, having won the Latino vote for the first time during November’s reelection bid and calling it the best part of the night.