The New Jersey state legislature will send Gov. Chris Christie (R) a bill that would grant in-state tuition to illegal immigrants who graduate from New Jersey high schools, similar to the federal Dream Act.
Christie has said he supports the general concept of the bill but would not sign it without specific changes — changes the legislature declined to give him.
The governor, who won half the Latino vote in his reelection campaign earlier this month -- far better than the vast majority of GOP candidates -- now faces vetoing legislation that is very important to that community.
"They’re overreaching and making it un-signable and making the benefits richer than the federal program, the federal Dream Act," Christie said Monday on his radio show, before the state legislature declined to make the changes. "That’s simply not acceptable for me."
Christie said Monday he would not sign the bill that passed the Senate because its benefits are too generous. He said the measure contains a loophole that could make New Jersey a magnet for students who are in the country illegally and seeking a more affordable college education.
Senate leaders said Tuesday they have no plans to change the bill. Assemblyman Gordon Johnson, sponsor of a similar bill in the Assembly, said he'll amend his version to match the Senate's.
"That's the right bill to move," said Johnson, a Democrat from Bergen County. "If he rejects it, then he's going to have to explain his broken promise to the young New Jerseyans and families who need tuition equality."
The bill grants students who are in the country illegally but graduate from a New Jersey high school the cheaper in-state tuition at state colleges, saving them thousands of dollars per semester. It also permits them to receive financial aid if qualified. The federal Dream Act would provide a path to permanent residency through higher education and military service for those who arrived in the United States illegally as minors. California and Texas are among the 13 states with versions of tuition-equity on the books.
Christie has notably declined to weigh in on federal immigration issues — more specifically, a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants — saying it is up to federal politicians to deal with it.
Christie's showing among Latinos this month stood in stark contrast to Mitt Romney, who took 27 percent of the Hispanic vote in the 2012 presidential race.
Updated at 3:28 p.m.