NEWARK, N.J. - Immigration reform may not be the main issue in the New Jersey gubernatorial race, but it remains a priority for many voters.
Democratic Gov. Corzine and his Republican challenger, Christopher J. Christie, have taken stands on key immigration issues that states control, although both say the federal government must be the main agent of change.
Both oppose granting New Jersey driver's licenses to people who cannot prove they are in the country legally.
"We need a national policy on how we identify people, not state by state," Corzine said in March, disagreeing with an immigration panel that recommended New Jersey grant "driving privilege cards" to the undocumented.
Christie has said he considers a driver's license a key national-security document that should not be issued to illegal immigrants.
"I don't want us to be giving out driver's licenses to any people who we can't prove definitively that we know who they are," he said.
Both candidates said they had reservations about a program called 287g, which allows local officials to enforce federal immigration laws, including checking a person's immigration status. The program should be applied only narrowly, they said.
Christie's running mate, Monmouth County Sheriff Kim Guadagno, heads one of only three jurisdictions in New Jersey that are in the program. Her support for 287g, and her nomination as Christie's running mate, has worried immigrant advocacy groups such as the Latino Leadership Alliance, which says the police can misuse the program for racial profiling.
Guadagno assured the alliance that she would use the program only to run immigration-status checks on those already in the Monmouth County Jail.
Christie said Guadagno's proposed use of 287g was appropriate "and one that's not fraught with risk in terms of the things that people can be concerned about, and that I have been concerned about, which is that it would be used to potentially harass people of color for a different reason."
Corzine said the 287g program could undermine community policing and should be used only within the narrow guidelines set forth by New Jersey's attorney general, who says only those charged with violent crimes or drunken driving can have their status questioned.
"People need to be able to feel like they can talk to the cop on the beat without worrying about whether they'll get in trouble for their immigration status," Corzine said.
The candidates differ on whether illegal immigrants should be able to pay in-state tuition at the state's public colleges.
Corzine supports in-state tuition, saying it mostly applies to those who were brought here as children and attended New Jersey schools for most of their education.
Christie opposes the idea, saying only lawful taxpayers deserve a tuition break because they help subsidize instate institutions.
Corzine convened the Blue Ribbon Advisory Panel on Immigrant Policy last year to study ways to integrate immigrants into all aspects of New Jersey society.