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Chris Christie Sides Against Obama Immigration Order in Court Battle

With Looming Presidential Election, Governor Sides With Republicans in Court Fight Over President Barack Obama's Executive Order
Gov. Christie
Governor Christie had been silent on immigration at town halls and a recent NJ101.5 "Ask the Governor" program. Daniel Munoz

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—New Jersey Governor Chris Christie joined Republican governors in supporting a lawsuit against President Barack Obama's executive order on immigration.

The executive order, made in November 2014 by Obama, shielded millions of undocumented immigrants in the U.S from deportation.

Christie joined the Governors of Louisiana, Texas and South Dakota in an "amicus" court brief supporting the position of the 26 states that have formally opposed Obama's order and hope to see it overturned in court.

Governor Christie did not sign the state government onto the lawsuit, but rather showed his personal support for the suit.

"The question presented is whether the president can unilaterally legalize the presence of millions of people and unilaterally give them myriad legal benefits, including work permits, Medicare, Social Security and tax credits," reads the filing.

Ari Rosmarin, a public policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, told the Star-Ledger that "when the lawsuit was filed, the state took no action."

"Now, to see Christie enter himself as governor on to this brief with the likes of governors of Texas, Louisiana and South Dakota is really shocking and shameful," Rosmarin added.

The order provides legal protection for undocumented parents of U.S citizens, as well as residents who have resided in the country for at least five years.

It would also expand the 2012 Deferred Actions for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, allowing for immigrants under 30 years old to apply for a deportation deferral.

An estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants reside in the United States.  An analysis by the Migration Policy Institute suggested that an estimate between 4 and 6 million undocumented immigrants would be affected by the action. 

President Obama's immigration policy has been a hotly-contested issue throughout his term, but especially after the order.

In late February, Republican legislators in Congress refused to fund the Department of Homeland Security unless cuts and changes were made to the immigration plan.

While members of Congress like Idaho Representative Mike Simpson stated that they were opposed to the immigration policy itself, others such as Raul Labrador, also from Idaho, stated their efforts were motivated by preserving the "separation of powers," not the immigration issue. 

Reform advocates accused Christie of playing to the national Republicans, and their opposition of immigration reform, in pursuit of his 2016 presidential aspirations.

“He’s putting his ambitions and the inclinations of republican primary voters against the needs of his New Jersey citizens and our state," said NJ Policy Perspectives staff member Gordon MacInnes in an interview with WBGO News. 

"If he’s going to be guided by the prevailing philosophy of Republican primary voters then New Jersey’s in big trouble.”

A December 2014 poll by the Rutgers-Eagleton Institute of Politics showed that 53% of NJ voters supported President Obama's immigration policy. 

An ongoing poll on NJ.com shows a nearly even split in responses, with 45% of respondents saying they support Governor Christie's decision to join the lawsuit, while 48% were in opposition to the decision. 

A November 2014 study by the Pew Research Center showed that between 2009 and the 2012, the number of unauthorized immigrants in New Jersey rose from 450,000 to 525,000, making up roughly 8.2% of the New Jersey workforce. 

Earlier this month, a report issued by the U.S Census Bureau showed that between 2013 and 2014, roughly 55,000 immigrants came to New Jersey.

Middlesex County nsaw an increase over 9,000 immigrants during this one year, and over 40,000 between 2010 and 2014.

Despite the importance of the issue to New Jerseyans, virtually no mention of the court filing came from the Governor or his office, save for an email confirmation from press officer Kevin Roberts.

The filing was not mentioned by the Governor at this most recent "town hall" or during his monthly radio appearance, nor was there any press release or announcement from the Governor's team.

Patrick Murray, Director of the Monmouth Polling Institute, stated that the combination of the court filing, along with Christie's aggressive and successful courting Latino support during his 2013 reelection could allow a chance for the Governor to "play it both ways."

"To the core base of Republican primary voters out there, Christie can now say, ‘I’m supportive of fighting this overstepping of Obama’s executive power on immigration,’ hopefully to make that group think he’s tough on immigration,’’ Murray stated.

“He can also turn around and say to the donors and establishment folks at private parties that he has good election results with Latinos.’’

On April 17, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments from the U.S Department of Justice challenging a Texas judge's decision to freeze the implementation of the executive order.