- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 19, 2015

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says providing a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants in the country is an “extreme way to go,” acknowledging a change in his position on the issue since 2010, when he supported one.

“Well, I think I’ve learned over time about this issue and done a lot more work on it,” he said in an interview that aired Tuesday evening on Fox News Channel’s “The Kelly File.” “I think everyone has to do what you need to do to be able to get educated on these issues and learn, and back in 2010 I was in my first couple months as a governor. [I’ve] now learned some of the ramifications for all these things and what I’m saying now is that we’ve got to come up with a solution for it.”

Mr. Christie, who is laying the groundwork for a possible 2016 presidential run, said former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the 2016 Democratic presidential frontrunner, is “pandering” on the issue. Mrs. Clinton recently said on the campaign trail she’d like to go even further on immigration than President Obama’s executive actions shielding millions from the threat of deportation, despite the White House’s own insistence that it already is doing everything legally permitted.

“We need to have an intelligent conversation about this and bring the American people along to where we can find consensus,” Mr. Christie said. “That’s been a failure of this president: you don’t build consensus by executive order, and it’s been a failure by those who are trying to just pander to make political points out of this. So no, I don’t believe that’s the way to go and I don’t believe that’s where the American people are.”

He said he signed a bill providing in-state tuition for illegal immigrants “because it made economic sense to do it,” saying his initial opposition was based on a lack of money in the budget for it.

The issue of immigration has proved to be tricky for some in the Republican Party who are either running for president in 2016 or seriously considering bids.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who like Mr. Christie is laying the groundwork for a possible run, acknowledged earlier in the year that his “view has changed” on the issue and that he now firmly opposes what he called amnesty.

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida has backed away from a 2013 bill he helped author that rewrote the country’s immigration laws and provided an eventual pathway to citizenship for most of the approximately 11 million illegal immigrants in the country, and now advocates a piecemeal approach with border security a central feature.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush recently said he supported a “path to legalized status,” but that he could potentially support a path to full citizenship if it was a way to get to a broader deal. Democrats have insisted that a pathway to citizenship for most illegal immigrants is a make-or-break element for them in any deal.

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

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