Apology in Order on Immigrant Tuition, Christie Says
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie reached a compromise with the state Senate leader on a bill easing college tuition costs for students in the U.S. illegally, and said he's owed an apology by anyone who doubted his commitment to enacting immigrant tuition legislation.
Christie said he's prepared to sign the bill granting the cheaper in-state tuition rate to New Jersey residents brought to this country illegally as children if the Legislature strips out a provision enabling the students to apply for financial aid.
Senate President Stephen Sweeney said the his chamber, which already passed the original bill, had agreed to the deal. The Assembly passed the same bill Thursday and Christie planned to conditionally veto it immediately.
Because both the Assembly and Senate were in session Thursday, Christie's changes could be acted on immediately. Assembly sponsor Gordon Johnson said that chamber would assess the governor's objections when it sees his conditional veto.
The measure would save students without legal residency thousands of dollars over the out-of-state rate they now pay. More than a dozen states have enacted similar laws, including Texas and California, the two states with larger foreign-born populations than New Jersey.
The issue had become a distraction for Christie, who is the governor of a Democratic-leaning state that supports the measure and a possible Republican presidential candidate facing early primary voters who oppose it.
The governor said during his re-election campaign he supported the concept of tuition equality, but he later said he would not sign a bill containing the financial aid provision. He said such a bill is too costly for the state and could make New Jersey a magnet for students in the country illegally who live in other states and want to attend state colleges at the cheaper rate.
His position was viewed by some as pandering to Hispanic voters before the election. He won re-election by 22 points in November, garnering 50 percent of the Hispanic vote.
Student advocate Giancarlo Tello, a Rutgers University student who was born in Peru and has been in the U.S. illegally since he was 6, said that proponents would accept the compromise "grudgingly."
"We won't forget that he doesn't think our community is worthy of true equality," said Tello, who has suspended his studies because of costs. "And, we will continue to push for it."
Christie said he feels sorry for anyone who is still complaining rather than celebrating the agreement.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)