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Speculation about Gov. Christie Entering 2012 Presidential Race Raises Key Questions on Immigration

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       Will Christie Stick with his Pro-Reform Position or Flip-flop?
If He Stands Strong, Will Party Leaders Defend his Immigration Stance from Attacks?

Washington, DC – Major Republican pundits and donors continue to call on Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ) to enter the 2012 Republican presidential race.  If these voices get their wish and Gov. Christie enters the fray, Christie’s pro-immigration stance will stand in sharp contrast to the rest of the GOP field’s positions on immigration

On an appearance on ABC’s “This Week” in July 2010, Governor Christie said, “[immigration] is a federal issue that should be handled by the feds and should be fixed finally. As a former United States attorney, I had to deal with these issues for seven years, and we simply didn’t have the resources to deal with them effectively.  So the president and the Congress have to step up to the plate, they have to secure our borders, and they have to put forward a commonsense path to citizenship for people.  And until they do that, states are going to struggle all over the country with this problem, and so is federal law enforcement, who doesn’t have the resources to do it effectively.” 

Similarly, Nate Silver of the New York Times flags Christie’s comment from 2008 that “being in this country without proper documentation is not a crime,” and notes that “Mr. Christie has received an F from NumbersUSA, an organization that favors greater restrictions on both legal and illegal immigration.”

According to Frank Sharry of America’s Voice, “If Christie jumps into the mix, the immigration hawks will no doubt savage his views on immigration.  The hardliners are dominating the debate right now despite the fact that the hardliners don’t represent a majority viewpoint in the GOP.  The question for the conservative pundits and activists calling on him to get into the race is this: if he goes and when he’s savaged, will they stand up for his views and take on the nativists, or will they stand by and remain silent?”

While the loud voices of the hard-right, anti-immigrant crowd are being heard these days, the vast majority of Republicans support comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship.  In May 2011, the Pew Research Center released a pollthat asked: “Thinking about illegal immigration in the United States, do you favor or oppose providing a way for illegal immigrants currently in the country to gain legal citizenship if they pass background checks, pay fines, and have jobs?” By a 72%-24% margin overall, voters supported a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants currently in the United States. When broken up by political typology, Main Street Republicans supported a path to citizenship 58%-39% and Libertarians supported it 66%-32.  Among Republican voters, only Staunch Conservatives failed to demonstrate majority support, although they split on the issue 49%-49%.  Other recent polling has also shown that Republicans are favorably inclined toward practical comprehensive immigration reform, including a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. 

Currently, sensible Republicans are being drowned out by the vocal minority. 

America’s Voice — Harnessing the power of American voices and American values to win common sense immigration reform.