Gov. Chris Christie, a likely 2016 Republican presidential candidate whose inroads among Hispanics helped him to a landslide re-election victory, could soon be handed an immigration bill that grants in-state tuition to students illegally brought to the U.S. as children.
The legislation is up for a Senate committee hearing on Thursday. A similar bill passed a Democrat-led Assembly panel in June. The proposal would make New Jersey the 13th state gran-
ing in-state tuition to students who lack status for legal residence because of illegal immigration.
Though neither house has scheduled final votes, Senate President Stephen Sweeney told The Associated Press a proposal would be delivered to Christie’s desk before the Legislature reorganizes in mid-January. There is already speculation over whether the governor would sign it.
Christie, who received 50 percent of the Hispanic vote in the Nov. 5 election, spent more than $1 million on Hispanic outreach, including a Spanish-language commercial, during the campaign. He increased his share of the Hispanic vote from one-third and his percentage of the black vote by 12 percent from four years ago. Such appeal to minorities would make him a stronger presidential contender should he elect to run.
Conservatives, who play a big role in selecting the Republican presidential nominee, vehemently oppose the “dreamer-style” bill making its way through the New Jersey Legislature.
New Jersey Citizens for Immigration Control president Gayle Kesselman said the measure would bring unwanted competition with legal residents for college openings and jobs and would cost billions. In-state tuition can cut the price of college in half for New Jersey residents.
Opponents also believe that the bill would reward lawbreakers and that only lawful resident students should qualify for resident tuition.
Proponents, like New Jersey Policy Perspective, have lined up civic and church leaders to testify in favor of the bill. Proponents argue that unauthorized immigrant children had no choice in entering the United States illegally, have grown up in the United States, and can make economic and social contributions if allowed to continue their studies.