Christie calls for apology from critics over tuition equality

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) dismissed criticism from young illegal immigrants on the tuition equality bill that passed the New Jersey legislature on Thursday.

“They can’t be second-class citizens because they’re not citizens,” he said at a Thursday afternoon press conference.

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The measure offers in-state tuition for students living in the country illegally, but differs from a more expansive bill pushed by New Jersey Senate Democrats in that it does not offer state tuition assistance grants.

Christie is expected to sign the measure Thursday, and while he hailed it as a bipartisan accomplishment, some activists and Democratic state legislators have criticized the bill because it doesn’t include those grants.

He was asked Thursday by a reporter about criticism from some young illegal immigrants that the pared-down version of the bill treated them like “second-class citizens."

The governor had come out against the Senate version of the bill, even after expressing support for the idea of in-state tuition for illegal immigrants on the campaign trail during his reelection fight. Critics accused him of flip-flopping on the issue, but on Thursday, Christie insisted his position remained consistent.

“What we’ve done here is to put forward exactly what I said I wanted to do, which was to responsibly and affordably implement tuition equality for all students in New Jersey,” he said.

He said that he opposed offering grants because it would burden the state’s finances, and because he didn’t want to make the state “a magnet state for undocumented students.” Only three states in the U.S. currently offer financial aid for such students.

And he called on those critics to apologize for suggesting he had supported tuition equality simply to win Hispanic votes. Christie won a majority of Hispanic votes in New Jersey, a feat for a Republican that won him praise from leaders of the party for expanding the reach of the GOP.

“This is what compromise looks like, and I’ll be waiting for all the apology letter to come in from all the people who said – some in this room – who said that I was not serious about tuition equality and that somehow this was an election prank," Christie said.