MANCHESTER, N.H. — Gov. Chris Christie said on Wednesday that he was sending a message to President Obama when he quietly threw his support behind Texas and other states suing the federal government over the president’s amnesty program for unauthorized immigrants.
Christie, speaking to reporters in New Hampshire, said Obama’s handling of immigration reform has been “wrong” and that he took to the courts to tell the president as much.
“The signal I’m sending is that the president shouldn’t do it by executive action and that he should work with the Congress to get something done,” Christie said. “It’s the only message that I’m sending on that.”
Christie was prompted to react to comments made earlier this month by a longtime key ally in New Jersey’s Latino community, Martin Perez, who accused the governor of pandering to the “extreme right of the Republican Party” by joining governors in three other states – Texas, Louisiana and South Dakota – in a court brief opposing the federal government’s request to implement executive orders seeking amnesty for certain unauthorized immigrants.
The lawsuit stems from court proceedings initiated by 26 states after Obama announced wide-reaching executive actions on immigration in November.
In later March, Christie quietly supported the lawsuit by submitting amici curiae, or friend of the court brief, with the U.S. Court of Appeals.
“I wanted our voice to join as a way of encouraging the president and the Congress to work together to make a legal, permanent solution to the immigration problem,” Christie said. “That’s the only signal I was trying to send.”
Perez, a well-known Garden State Latino activist and president of the Latino Leadership Alliance of New Jersey, recently accused Christie of “sending a strong and damaging message to the Latino community in New Jersey and across the nation.”
Perez and his group’s 30-member board voted unanimously in 2013 to back the governor’s re-election campaign.
Despite the disagreement, Christie said the two men will continue to work together.
“Martin and I met before he made those remarks and after,” Christie said.
“We’re friends, we’ll continue to work well together, but we’re not going to agree on every issue, we never have,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t support me and that the organization doesn’t support me, they have and they continue to.”
The governor made the comments after touring a Manchester restaurant during a visit to the first-in-the-nation presidential primary state of New Hampshire.