Washington CNN  — 

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who is searching for some footing in a wide-open field of Republican contenders, said he stands by comments he made in 2010 that immigrants should have a path to citizenship.

“We have to have Congress come together and deal with this. They haven’t done that yet. The President has done it by executive order, he hasn’t brought people together on it yet,” Christie told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota in an interview that aired Friday.

Christie said that illegal immigration should be curbed by hitting employers who hire undocumented workers with fines.

“We’ve got to penalize employers who hire people who are here illegally,” Christie said in the interview. “Because the fact is that that shouldn’t happen and it’s exploiting American workers. But in addition to that, it’s exploiting many of those people who are here illegally because they’re being paid less money. So we need to make bigger fines to make sure that those employers who violate the law are being held accountable.”

Immigration has become a flashpoint in the race ever since Donald Trump burst onto the field last month with his proclamation that Mexican “rapists” were flooding the border.

Trump has won widespread attention for that and other wild remarks, but he has also taken a major hit financially, as NBC, Univision, Macy’s and many other businesses have cut their ties with him.

The other Republican candidates, meanwhile, have walked carefully on the issue, which has long become a wedge for the party as it looks to hold onto conservative white voters angry over immigration while attracting Hispanic voters, a growing demographic who helped carry President Barack Obama into office twice.