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Christie: "If You Have Come Here Knowingly, Illegally, You Cannot Become A Citizen"

"We cannot reward that type of conduct..."

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New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says he wants to be "really clear" that he doesn't support citizenship for undocumented immigrants -- a position he's supported in the past.

Christie, who was speaking with radio host Bill Bennett on his radio program this week ahead of the Republican presidential debate, said the country needs to "engage in a couple of real smart conversations" about what to do with the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country.

"I think we can agree to two facts: First that folks are not going to self-deport," he said. "They're simply not going to leave as Mitt Romney talked about a couple of years ago. And secondly, I know as a former law enforcement officer that we don't have enough law enforcement - local, state, county, federal combined - to forcibly deport them."

Christie said it had to be made clear if you come to the U.S. illegally, "you cannot become a citizen," so as to not add to the number of undocumented immigrants already in the country.

"So first though, before the public is going to allow us to come to some kind of, you know, common-sense judgment on what to do with the 11 million they need to be convinced that we're not going to add to that number," he said.

"If we agree to those two things we have some narrow pathways and one thing that I want to be really clear on is if you have come here knowingly, illegally you cannot become a citizen. We cannot reward that type of conduct and so if you come here knowingly illegally you can't be treated any differently than any other foreigner in terms of your admission to the United States and your citizenship to the United States."

Christie has said in the past that he supports a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, and said in 2008 that "being in this country without proper documentation is not a crime."

Christie concluded by noting he agreed it "a different case" in giving citizenship to DREAMers or the children of undocumented immigrants.

Here's the audio:

w.soundcloud.com

Andrew Kaczynski is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Andrew Kaczynski at andrew.kaczynski@buzzfeed.com.

Mark Arce is a politics research intern for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Mark Arce at Mark.Arce@buzzfeed.com.

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