MARION, Iowa (AP) – Gov. Chris Christie said Thursday during a visit to Iowa that he would consider requests to help unaccompanied immigrant children who come to New Jersey, but would not encourage families to send them to his home state.
"I have great empathy for that situation," Christie told reporters when asked about the influx of immigrant children. He was speaking after greeting more than 100 people at a Cedar Rapids-area restaurant.
"We'll take every request that comes based on its merits and make those decisions," he said, calling Americans an "empathetic people."
"We don't like to see people suffer," he said. Christie had evaded the question when asked previously.
Christie has emerged from a low national profile in recent weeks and has made more public statements, but has offered few hard positions on hot-button issues.
He continued to hedge on the broader issue of immigration policy, when asked after the event in Iowa.
"The reason you see the [immigration] numbers up that way is because people know in the United States that the federal government has refused to address this issue in any meaningful way, in both parties," Christie said, when asked about a recent Gallup Poll that showed frustration with immigration matching concern about the economy and government effectiveness.
On the question of tens of thousands of unaccompanied children at the U.S.-Mexico border, Christie said it would be a wrong step to encourage families to send their children to New Jersey, which has among the nation's 10 largest Hispanic populations.
Christie was visiting Iowa — the state which holds the first presidential caucus of the 2016 election cycle — as chairman of the Republican Governors Association and was headlining three fundraisers, including one Thursday evening for Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad in Davenport.
Christie blamed the Obama administration for the failure of the federal government to resolve the crisis involving the thousands of unaccompanied children.