Christie Opposition to National Immigration Reform Divides a Political Alliance in New Jersey

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NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ–In March, Governor Chris Christie joined many Republican Governors in support of a lawsuit challenging President Barack Obama’s executive order protecting millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation.

Christie has been relatively quiet about his own views on immigration until recently, all while weighing a run for the Republican Presidential nomination.

Some say his newfound opposition to the reform shows he is pandering to Republicans nationwide instead of thinking of the residents of New Jersey.

The coalition to block the executive order is led by Texas and supported by 26 states in total.  The states are suing to block the plan proposed by the President, which would protect about five million immigrants from deportation.

Last month, a 5th circuit court of appeals heard arguments in the case but did not make a ruling, instead putting it under advisement.

Benjamin Mizer, the Department of Justice principal deputy assistant attorney general, called the move by Texas unprecedented and argued that it is outside the domain of states to control a policy that falls into the hands of the federal government.

While Christie did not formally sign the New Jersey state government onto the lawsuit, he personally threw his support in favor of overturning the executive order, as we reported.

The decision marks a shift in policy for the Governor who has spent most of the last few years garnering support of many key Latinos in New Jersey, and has repeatedly cited that more than half of Latinos supported his reelection as Governor.

Martin Perez, the leader of the Latino Leadership Alliance and a New Brunswick resident who Christie appointed to the powerful Rutgers Board of Governors, said he felt blindsided by Governor’s move to support the injunction.

According to the LLA, the Christie who filed the amicus brief was not the Christie who “made history in 2013 by winning 51% of the Latino vote.”

As a long time supporter of the Governor, Perez can usually be counted on to praise Christie’s actions but this recent development has brought a sharp point of contention between the two men.

The move by the governor is seen as pandering to “the extreme right of the Republican Party,” says Perez, “It only feeds the anti-immigrant feeling that is in the country.”

Despite this controversy, Perez still holds hope for Christie and their partnership, pointing out that Christie was not so much opposed to the idea of immigration reform, but rather to the approach taken by Obama, by filing an executive order instead of passing legislation.

Obama has said he issued the executive order because Congressional Republicans have refused to entertain immigration reform legislation.

Kevin Roberts, the spokesman for Christie, declined to comment regarding the Governors move and how it may affect the relationship he has held with Perez for many years.

Another New Jersey based activist group, the New Jersey Youth for Immigrant Liberation, has also shown their disdain for Christie's opposition towards immigration reform.

“This decision is a slap in the face for all immigrant families in New Jersey,” said Li Adorno, member of the NJYIL.

Ana Bonilla, a member of the alliance, highlights the convenient timing for Christie’s move.

“Back in 2013 when he was running for his re-election in a blue state he supported immigrant youth and now that he will be seeking the Republican nomination he is throwing our immigrant community under the bus,” Bonilla told NBToday.

While many governors have pushed back against the executive order on a state level, there have been many Mayors across the country voicing their supporting for the reform.

Mayor Jose Torres of Paterson joined over 73 cities and counties from New York to Los Angeles, urging the immediate implementation of the order.

“Our cities are united, and we will fight for the immigration reform this nation needs and deserves – whether in the courtroom, in Congress, or in our communities,” said New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who joined in support over the issue.

New Jersey has among the highest immigrant populations in the country.

There are between 250,000 and 550,000 undocumented immigrants in the state, and about 8.6% of the states workforce is undocumented according to New Jersey Policy Perspectives.