MEXICO CITY (AP) — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Thursday said he has no plans to lay out his positon on immigration reform until — and if — he decides to run for president.
Christie, who was in the middle of a three-day trade mission to Mexico, had conspicuously side-stepped the thorny issue on the first day of his trip, making no mention of legislation stalled in Congress or the flow of Central American children crossing into the United States illegally through Mexico.
On Day 2, however, the potential 2016 contender told reporters that he would only discuss the issue, which Republicans have described as crucial to the future of their party, "if and when I become a candidate for president of the United States."
"If that happens, then I will articulate a full position on it and then you guys can pick it apart and praise it or damn it however you like," he said before lunch at a taco restaurant.
"But until that time, that's not my job and it's not my role. And I understand everybody wants to start a campaign that I haven't even decided I want to be in right now. I'm just not going to do it," he said.
While its official purpose is to foster economic investments between New Jersey and Mexico, the trip was seen by many as an opportunity for Christie to burnish his foreign policy credentials ahead of a potential presidential run and to build his relationship with Latino voters. Christie did well with Latinos when he ran for re-election in New Jersey, but he has so far steered clear of articulating an immigration plan.
Christie said he told leaders in closed-door meetings that immigration was "a very difficult issue for both parties" and that "there has to be common ground that needs to be found on this issue." But he said it was up to the president and Congress to find a solution.
Many were also watching the trip to see how Christie's famously brash personal style translates to the diplomatic stage, where restraint is often required. At public events, he seemed to have left his usual bravado at home, packing instead a more humble tone. Again and again, he stressed that a key part of his mission is to listen and learn from those he meets.
Asked about the shift, Christie rejected the idea that he'd left his Jersey in Jersey, as one reporter suggested, but said that he routinely tailored his tone to his surroundings.
"In private I have a little more of it than I do in public. You know, you're getting to know people, so you don't want to go too overboard, right?" he said.
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