Christie dismisses ‘barcoding’ reports in immigration comments to N.H. gathering

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Dover, N.H. — Chris Christie’s town hall-style forum here last weekend provided a venue for the Republican presidential primary contender to clarify his suggestion that tracking visas can keep visitors from staying in the U.S. illegally and gave him a chance to poke a little fun at the media.

During remarks at at Newick’s restaurant, Christie, who was accompanied by Maine’s Republican Governor Paul LePage, mocked reporters who misconstrued comments he made at a similar meeting two weeks ago, when he commented on setting up a visa tracking system modeled on the way Federal Express monitors package deliveries using barcode technology.

Referring to the 40 percent of undocumented U.S. immigrants who have overstayed visas, Christie told his Dover audience that he had suggested tapping FedEx executives to help the government set up a visa tracking system. He made fun of reporters at the earlier event, chastising them for taking him literally.

“It was an analogy,” the governor said with a mocking tone. “This of course is very difficult for some members of the media to understand – that I was not being literal, that this was … an analogy.”

“I said that if FedEx can track a package, from the minute it leaves your hand, until the minute it’s delivered on the doorstep, then we should be able to track the people who come in with visas,” Christie told the Dover meeting.

Christie ridiculed journalists who erroneously reported that he wants to put actual barcodes on people who enter the country on visas.  “I got a woman on CNN – this is on live TV – `Now, governor, is your proposal to put chips in people when they come across the border?’”

As the mostly sympathetic crowd responded with laughter, Christie pointed out he wasn’t actually suggesting the use of package-tracking technology on people.

“Let me tell you something, I don’t need to put barcodes on anybody,” the governor said. He added that all the government needs to do is require visa recipients to provide a fingerprint, and that can be used to track a visitor, including when he or she leaves the country, and alert authorities if that person remains here illegally.

Christie’s tracking system also would notify visitors with visas when their time was up. He said that the use of certain services would require a fingerprint scan, and that could alert authorities if that person’s visa had expired.

Tracking visas is one of Christie’s signature proposals for dealing with illegal immigration.  Christie also supports building walls or fences on more-populous parts of the U.S.-Mexico border. He said a barrier along the full length of the border, as proposed by rival Donald Trump, wouldn’t be feasible. Christie said that using sensors, drone aircraft and other technology would be more effective.

The New Jersey governor called for increasing the presence of FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration and other law enforcement agents to stop weapons and drug smuggling as well.

Illegal trafficking is at the core of the gun-control issue, the former federal prosecutor said during wide-ranging question and answer session.

“The problem with guns in this country is criminals,” Christie said, explaining that rather than tightening gun control laws, he would stress putting people using guns illegally behind bars.

Commenting on the refugee crisis in Europe, Christie said that, as president, he would sit down with American allies to figure out how many people each country could take. Accommodating refugees is “the humanitarian thing to do, and the right thing to do,” Christie said, adding that any headed to the U.S. would need to be cleared by the Department of Homeland Security, to ensure domestic security.

Drawing a contrast with fellow candidate Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina senator and Air Force veteran who supports putting U.S. special forces on the ground in the Middle East to fight the Islamic State, Christie emphasized the need to tighten U.S. borders as a matter of national defense.

“The best way to prevent war is for America to be strong without question,” he said.

Supporters such as Jeffery Phillips, a former New Jerseyan who now lives in Litchfield, Maine, said the governor’s honesty draws him to them, even if they don’t always see eye-to-eye with him on all issues. Holding a sign that said “Christie, save us from Jeb Bush,” Phillips cited Christie’s direct way of speaking as the primary reason the governor had earned his support.

“There’s such a contrast,” Phillips said of the two Republican candidates. “Jeb Bush is wishy-washy. I don’t have to worry about that with Chris Christie.”

The governor has emphasized that sensibility in his “Telling it Like It Is Town Hall Tour” as he campaigns for the 2016 nomination.

“You can’t wait for a candidate you agree with 100 percent of the time,” Christie said. “You need a candidate who will tell you the truth.”