When New Jersey governor and presidential aspirant Chris Christie recently called for a system to track immigrants the way FedEx tracks packages, there were howls of indignation from predictable sources. One was Raul Reyes, a third-generation Mexican American who sits on the USA Today board of contributors.
Christie made the mistake of failing to provide details right away. That left a vacuum that Reyes filled with a nightmare scenario from his imagination.
"Possible solutions might encompass ankle bracelets or perhaps a FedEx-like label?" he wrote on the CNN website. "Just imagine the response from foreign governments if we told them that visitors to this country were to be tagged or fitted with an electronic device."
Christie appeared on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program Tuesday morning to explain.
Said Christie, "We don't need to put labels on people. ... We don't have to put a bar code on you. Someone on another network asked me if I was going to put a chip in people."
Holding up his hands, he said. "Here are your chips. You've got ten of them. We should be using biometrics for people we admit on visas into the United States. Give a thump print. That thump print should go on a separate database. And folks should have to, when they access services here, give a thumb print. And if you've overstayed your visa — Listen, a visa [holder] is not an immigrant, by the way. ... They're coming here to visit. … And when you visit, you're supposed to leave eventually." At this point, host Joe Scarborough cracked that he has had guests that never leave. Responded Christie, "Well that's the point, Joe. What do you do eventually? You kick them out. And that's what the United States should be doing to folks who come here for an education or come here for tourism. Stay for a period of time. We love having you. Come and visit, and then go home. And the fact that we've got liberals in this country — and others — who say, 'Oh somehow this is so awful.' It's awful? What's awful is that 40 percent of the 11 million people we have here illegally are overstayed visas. That's us failing our job."
No one on the program pointed out that the system wouldn't do much good if a visa overstayer doesn't apply for a government service.