Chris Christie stays mostly silent on immigration at CPAC

When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie addressed a gathering of conservatives on Thursday, the potential 2016 presidential candidate mostly stayed away from immigration when he…

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks to conservative talk show host Laura Ingraham during the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, on February 26, 2015. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie addressed a gathering of conservatives on Thursday, the potential 2016 presidential candidate mostly stayed away from immigration when he was asked about the topic twice.

Instead, he focused more on his record as governor. He also spoke about how he has stood up for conservative issues despite working with the state’s Democratic-controlled legislature. Those issues include vetoing bills to raise the income tax, pushing for school choice and being pro-life.

“Listen, I wake up every morning with a Democratic legislature, so I wake up every morning knowing I’m not going to get everything I want,” he said. “But what you need to do is to stand firmly and tell people what you believe.”

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Christie made those comments Thursday during a discussion with conservative talk show host Laura Ingraham at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Maryland. At one point, Ingraham brought up previous comments that former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who’s also thinking about running for president, made about immigration.

She said Bush once suggested Detroit should be repopulated with immigrant workers to spur the economy there. She also noted that Bush recently said immigrants are “more entrepreneurial, harder-working and more fertile than Americans.”

Christie responded by saying that “the most entrepreneurial people in the world” are the people living in the United States.

“That’s why folks want to come here,” he said. “What we need to get back to in this country is creating an economic atmosphere where people want to come here and come here legally.”

Chris Christie spoke at CPAC.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie participated in a discussion during the 42nd annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on February 26, 2015 in National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Bush has received a lot of criticism from conservatives for saying last year that many undocumented immigrants who come to the United States do so as an “act of love” for their families. He has also gotten criticism for supporting a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants.

Bush will head to CPAC on Friday. He’ll likely be asked about his stance on immigration when he sits down to take questions from Fox News host Sean Hannity.

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Meanwhile, Christie has mostly stayed away from immigration in the past few months. It’s also unclear what his position is on what should be done to address the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. One reason for that is because his position on immigration has shifted over the years.

For example, he once said he opposed giving in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants. But in January 2014, he held an event where he signed into law the so-called New Jersey DREAM Act. The measure allows undocumented students living in New Jersey to pay in-state tuition rates at any of the state’s public colleges and universities.

On Thursday, Christie also stayed away from saying what he thinks about the efforts by Republicans in Congress to use the Department of Homeland Security funding bill as a way to try to block President Obama’s recent executive actions on immigration.

Ingraham referred to the president’s actions as an “executive amnesty deal” and told Christie there are many Americans who are “very angry” with the way Republicans have handled the issue. She also said some constituents haven’t been able to reach their elected members of Congress to express their frustration.

“Anyone who’s frustrated come to New Jersey,” Christie said in response, adding that he held his 128th town hall meeting on Wednesday. “We had 500 people yesterday in New Jersey. We took questions for an hour. You raise your hand. I call on you. And I take the question, and I answer it. That’s what elected official owe to their constituents.”

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When it comes to the polls, Christie is currently trailing other potential Republican 2016 presidential candidates, including Bush. But Christie doesn’t seem too worried about that. “Is the election next week?” Christie asked when Ingraham brought up the issue.

“If I decide to run for president, I’m not worried about what polls say 21 months before we elect the president of the United States,” he continued. “If I decide to run, let me tell you one thing, I will run a hard-fighting campaign where I will fight for the hardworking taxpayers of this country. And I’ll take my chances on me. I’ve done pretty well so far.”