Chris Christie’s Other Scandal: the New Jersey Dream Act

Published on February 7th, 2014

By Joe Guzzardi
February 7, 2014

Lately, New Jersey’s governor Chris Christie has been much in the news. Allegedly, Christie ordered lane closures at the heavily trafficked Ft. Lee Bridge as part of a political get even plot. The supposed pay back targeted Ft. Lee mayor Mayor Mark Sokolich who did not endorse Christie during his 2013 reelection. 

Since the scandal broke several weeks ago, Christie’s poll numbers have fallen, his status as a leading Republican Party presidential nominee is teetering and a New York Times op-ed demanded he resign.  

While the bridge fiasco received endless ink and air time, another Christie story with national consequences was overshadowed. In January, Christie signed a Dream Act bill that will allow illegal immigrant students who have attended at least three years of high school in New Jersey to qualify for lower in-state tuition fees. 

The contentious issue has been hotly debated since 2010 when presidents from 19 community colleges, all part of the New Jersey Council of County Colleges, backed the Dream Act in a letter sent to the legislature. Christie’s decision came after he reached a compromise with the state Senate to drop a provision that would have allowed aliens to be eligible for state financial aid, assuming they would have qualified under the established income guidelines. 

Under the previous system, alien students could attend K-12 public schools, but paid out-of-state tuition at New Jersey’s public colleges. At Rutgers University, New Jersey undergraduates currently pay $13,499 a year in tuition and fees while out-of-state students shell out $27,523.

The Dream Act has been a political hot potato since Senator Dick Durbin introduced the federal bill in Congress in 2001. Christie, assuming he becomes a presidential candidate, may rue his enthusiastic praise of illegal immigrants. At his press conference, Christie called the young immigrants “an inspiration to us all.” That kind of effusiveness in defense of illegal immigration infuriates the Republican base which any 2016 GOP candidate will need. Three years ago, Texas Governor Rick Perry was among the Republican primary favorites until he called his opponents heartless because they didn’t support the Dream Act. Soon after his ill-advised charge, Perry was driven out of the primary. Reflecting where voters stand on the Dream Act, Congress has defeated the legislation multiple times during the last twelve years. 

The Dream Act which the House is considering under its new identity as the Kids Act is full blown amnesty, and an insult to American citizens who hope provide a college education for their children. By definition, the Dream Act expands the pool of potential applicants for a fixed number of freshman seats. Furthermore, Rutgers is a land grant school, built and funded by New Jersey taxpayers to provide stewardship for the state’s natural resources, and not to benefit foreign nationals.

At a minimum, no version of the Dream Act should pass without eliminating birthright citizenship and welfare benefits for those here illegally. According to initial Kids Act draft proposals, qualifying students would be granted immediate legal status and authorized to work. Eventually, recipients would become citizens, and then could petition their family members and thus create more chain migration.

New Jersey is the fifteenth state to enact the Dream Act. More entitlements like cheaper college tuition at premier U.S. universities guarantee more illegal immigration. Illegal immigration will continue with each wave not only demanding more but expecting it. 

While immigration reform appears stalled for now, future priorities must include maximizing border security, implementing mandatory E-Verify and removing magnets like the Dream Act.


Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow whose columns have been syndicated since 1987. Contact him at [email protected]

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