By Claude Brodesser-Akner
on February 12, 2017 at 12:08 PM

TRENTON -- Gov. Chris Christie on Sunday defended President Donald Trump's order for weekend immigration raids in six states in which unauthorized immigrants without any violent criminal past were deported along with gang members being targeted.

The president on Sunday tweeted that the immigration and customs enforcement raids cracking down on the estimated 11 million immigrants living here illegally were aimed at violent felons.

Donald J. Trump ✔ @realDonaldTrump
The crackdown on illegal criminals is merely the keeping of my campaign promise. Gang members, drug dealers & others are being removed!
3:34 AM - 12 Feb 2017
24,720 Retweets 120,692 likes

However, appearing on CNN's "State of the Union with Jake Tapper" on Sunday, Christie was informed that some of those "others" deported were otherwise law-abiding residents who'd been working in the U.S. for decades and raising children who are U.S. citizens.

Tapper then asked the governor for what his message was to the more than 400,000 "undocumented immigrants in New Jersey, your home state, who are not drug dealers, who are not gang members, who have not committed any sort of violent crimes, who have children who are American and are now in fear?"

The governor struck a decidedly different tone than he had in the past.

He blamed both the Bush and Obama administrations for their past inaction on immigration reform, and offered little in the way of sympathy to those swept up in the ICE raids.

"This is the problem with the whole failure of the federal government over the course of the last 12 to 16 years," Christie said. "When that's the case, then the laws that are in effect right now have to be enforced."

Non-violent but nonetheless unauthorized immigrants might deported as well, Christie indicated.

"I can tell you, Jake, from having run a government for seven years and been involved for many years as a U.S. attorney, things always don't go perfectly ... and so you're going to have some people who, by the way, have violated the law, but don't fit that one category."

The governor also claimed that Trump's travel ban was not informed by religion, despite the president's and his adviser's statements to the contrary.

The governor did not share Trump's immigration priorities when he was a presidential candidate or a U.S. attorney.

As he was readying the launch of his own presidential bid in 2015, Christie called for first resolving the legal status of unauthorized immigrants whose only violation of the law was coming to the U.S. to work.

"None of them has ever come to me and said, 'Governor the reason I came here was to vote.' They said they came here to work," Christie told CNN in April 2015, "So let's deal with the work situation first and then we will deal with everything else."

On Sunday, Christie said that the people of New Jersey "should focus on is what the president is trying to do, which is to keep a campaign promise on making sure that violent criminals who are here illegally are taken out of the country in order to make America's streets safer."

However, when Christie was serving as U.S. Attorney and a Republican candidate for governor, he had strongly criticized Morristown Mayor Donald Cresitello's call for tough enforcement of immigration laws by having police officers granted the power to enforce them.

Speaking before a largely Latino audience in Dover in 2008, Christie said that "being in this country without proper documentation is not a crime" and noted that illegal presence is a violation of U.S. civil, not criminal, code.

He later called Cresitello "stupid" for doing so, and termed his demands to deport unauthorized immigrants who came to work in the U.S. "hyperbole and grandstanding and demagoguery."

But on Sunday, the governor offered a much stricter view of immigration enforcement.

"If they don't like the federal law, they should go to Congress and get it changed," Christie said.