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Christie backs tuition equity, won't sign New Jersey DREAM Act?

"I said the legislature should move in the lame duck session towards tuition equality in New Jersey. Period," New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said recently. "I didn't support any particular piece of legislation." His statement was meant to clarify remarks a week earlier in which he said he opposed the New Jersey DREAM Act, which would have granted it.

Christie won 51 percent of the Latino vote in his recent reelection after pledging to support tuition equality for DREAMers. At a Latino Leadership Alliance event in October, Christie highlighted his belief that "every child should be able to give the opportunity to reach their God-given potential," and prioritized "making sure that there's tuition equality for everybody in New Jersey."

To immigrant families and a broad coalition of supporters, his support of S2479 seemed clear, but now he says he has three objections to the current version. First, since it would give not only in-state tuition but also access to state financial aid, Christie claims it would be too expensive. Second, the bill isn't limited to DREAMers who were already in the U.S. by 2012, the date used in the Obama Administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Third, students attending boarding schools in the state would qualify for in-state college tuition, as the bill worked around federal law by tying eligibility to high school attendance rather than residency.

New Jersey's senate president accuses Christie of "finding excuses to oppose" the state's DREAM Act, and upbraided the governor for not having mentioned any such objections while the bill was in committee. He also called Christie's objection to the boarding school students "not real," as the number of these who end up attending state universities in New Jersey is very low.

Christie's objection to denying DREAMers state financial aid, the senator said, would be in direct opposition to the bill's intent. "You've relegated the people you're trying to put on equal footing as second-class citizens," he said.

The New Jersey Star-Ledger's editors excoriated Christie's last-minute withdrawal of support. "The real reason for his flip-flop?" the editorial reads, "Christie has his eyes on the presidency. And if he has to roll over Latinos to get there, he'll do it."

As Christie has said himself, DREAMers are unauthorized through no fault of their own, and they're Americans in every way but on paper. It's time to stop playing politics with immigrant families.

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