College Pathway Opens for New Jersey Dreamers

Christie, Democrats strike a deal on in-state tution for undocument students.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie attends his election night event after winning a second term at the Asbury Park Convention Hall on November 05, 2013 in Asbury Park, New Jersey. Incumbent Governor Chris Christie defeated his Democratic opponent Barbara Buono by a commanding margin. 
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Jordan Fabian, Fusion
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Jordan Fabian, Fusion
Dec. 19, 2013, 11:05 a.m.

New Jer­sey Gov. Chris Christie (R) and Demo­crats have reached a com­prom­ise on a pro­pos­al that would al­low stu­dents liv­ing in the U.S. il­leg­ally ac­cess to in-state tu­ition at pub­lic uni­versit­ies.

The deal, which was an­nounced Thursday, ends weeks of feud­ing between Christie and Demo­crats over the bill. Christie could sign the le­gis­la­tion in­to law as soon as today, The Star-Ledger re­por­ted.

The pro­pos­al would al­low stu­dents brought to the U.S. il­leg­ally as chil­dren, and who gradu­ate from New Jer­sey high schools, to pay in-state tu­ition. Christie re­versed his earli­er op­pos­i­tion to the policy and came out in fa­vor of it this year dur­ing his reelec­tion cam­paign, when he won 51 per­cent of Latino voters.

But Christie later op­posed an in-state tu­ition bill passed by the state Sen­ate. He said that he wanted changes made, like re­mov­ing fin­an­cial aid ac­cess for un­doc­u­mented stu­dents, be­fore he would sign it.

At first, Demo­crats re­jec­ted those re­vi­sions, and Christie caught heat from im­mig­rant-rights ad­voc­ates for flip-flop­ping on the is­sue.

But Demo­crats even­tu­ally agreed to re­move those pro­vi­sions to sat­is­fy Christie and get the bill signed in­to law. The le­gis­la­tion could help as many as 10,000 New Jer­sey res­id­ents. On Thursday, he lashed out at his crit­ics who ques­tioned his will­ing­ness to sign an in-state tu­ition bill.

“Shame on all of you who ac­cused me and oth­ers of play­ing polit­ics with this is­sue,” he said, ac­cord­ing to The Star-Ledger.

“The fact here is what we’ve done here is put for­ward ex­actly what I said I wanted to do,” he ad­ded.

Demo­crats said they were re­luct­ant to make changes to the pro­pos­al, but get­ting it passed was more im­port­ant.

“I’m dis­ap­poin­ted with that, but I still view this as a vic­tory for young people who are Amer­ic­ans in everything but on pa­per,” said state Sen­ate Pres­id­ent Steph­en Sweeney (D), ac­cord­ing to The Star-Ledger.

Christie is a po­ten­tial 2016 pres­id­en­tial can­did­ate and his hand­ling of the in-state tu­ition bill was closely watched by the na­tion­al press. Re­pub­lic­an nom­in­ee Mitt Rom­ney’s hard line stance on il­leg­al im­mig­ra­tion helped doom his can­did­acy in 2012.

The gov­ernor’s sup­port for in-state tu­ition and his suc­cess­ful reelec­tion cam­paign was held up as a mod­el for Re­pub­lic­ans who are search­ing for a way to ap­peal to Latino voters on a na­tion­al level.

But Christie still gave a nod to those who fa­vor tough­er im­mig­ra­tion policies on Thursday when he was asked about an un­doc­u­mented stu­dent who said he would feel like a “second-class cit­izen” without in-state tu­ition.

“You can’t be a second class cit­izen if you’re not a cit­izen,” he said. “If they want more, I’m sorry, but they are get­ting a lot more than they’ve had in the past.”

This art­icle is pub­lished with per­mis­sion from Fu­sion, a TV and di­git­al net­work that cham­pi­ons a smart, di­verse and in­clus­ive Amer­ica. Fu­sion is a part­ner of Na­tion­al Journ­al and The Next Amer­ica. Fol­low the au­thor on Twit­ter: @Jord­anFa­bi­an

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