April 9, 2011

In-state college tuition for illegal immigrants passes House 74-66

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Dream act tally board.

Tally board on in-state tuition bill.

By Megan Poinski
Megan@MarylandReporter.com

Dream act tally board.

Tally board on in-state tuition bill.

In a close vote, the House of Delegates passed a bill on Friday that would give in-state college tuition to illegal immigrants, following an emotional debate fraught with tears, personal stories, anger and applause.

The vote tally was 74-66, with 23 Democrats joining all 43 Republicans in opposing the measure. The bill that passed the House is a version that already passed the Senate. However, three amendments were added to the bill by members of the House, meaning that the bill must go back to the Senate for a final vote  before the General Assembly adjourns on Monday. It passed there 27-20. The electronic vote tally for Friday’s House vote was not available online as of Saturday morning.

Few debates have been so emotionally charged in this General Assembly session. Del. Anne Kaiser, D-Montgomery County, its floor leader, said that the bill was about opportunity. The students who it benefits view themselves as Americans, she said. Granting the students in-state tuition, considering the money that the state invests in their K-12 education, is the smartest thing to do for the state.

“I believe this can still be a land of opportunity,” Kaiser said.

The bill has been a lightning rod for the immigration debate during this General Assembly session. All the other bills to limit state benefits to illegal immigrants or force employers to verify legal immigration status have died in committees.

Opponents said the in-state tuition bill rewards people who come to the nation illegally, and proponents saying it offers an opportunity to get educated for young people who were brought to this country.

Del. Shirley Nathan-Pulliam, D- Baltimore County, an immigrant herself, said that 42% of the immigrants in Maryland are naturalized U.S. citizens. A quarter of the scientists and a fifth of the health care practitioners in this state are immigrants, she said.

“This is a country built by immigrants,” she said. “Unless you are an American Indian, or Native American, you are an immigrant.”

She asked if the members of the House of Delegates knew how their forefathers came to the United States. Did they come in legally?

Del. Kathy Afzali, while not an immigrant herself, is married to an Iranian immigrant, she said. Her husband got out of Iran with his life, and not much else, she said. He spent 15 years working through the legal process to become a U.S. citizen. It was not an easy journey, she said.

“If you vote for this bill, you are a slap in the face to every immigrant who comes to this great nation,” she said.

Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez, an immigrant from El Salvador, said that today’s young immigrants don’t have the opportunities that she had. She said she was able to get legal permanent residency in the United States after graduating from college in the U.S. by telling the consulate that she wanted to return to work. Nowadays, the process is much more difficult and convoluted.

Del. Patrick McDonough, an outspoken critic of illegal immigration, said that he is simply fighting for the rule of law. The rule of law, he said, requires services be granted to those with U.S. citizenship. McDonough brought the debate to the Statue of Liberty, who he said carries a law book in her left hand. (It is generally described as a tablet with the date July 4, 1776 in Roman numerals.)

“Stand up for the symbolism of Lady Liberty and what she stands for: The rule of law,” he said.

Dozens of students whom the bill would impact watched the debate from the House gallery. They gathered around the House chamber doors, cheering lawmakers as they walked out.

Diana, a senior at Broadneck High School in Arnold who did not want to give her last name because of her immigration status, said that she was excited by Friday’s vote.

“I feel accomplished,” she said. “The law actually works, and they are fighting for what’s right.”

An amendment was added to the bill during Friday’s debate that clarifies the proof of paying taxes for the student’s parents or guardians. Other amendments that would charge students using the program a fee or cap state funds to be spent on the tuition program were defeated.

  • Concerned Citizen

    This is a slap in the face to all American citizens.

  • grr

    I love that I lived in virginia for 5 years and still couldn’t get in-state tuition for VCU, so now I have student loan debt for over $150,000

  • W.T.Foulk

    What are the recipients going to do with their cheaper degrees? They can’t legally work in the United States, college educated or otherwise. What a joke.

  • Anonymous

    What Maryland should be doing is passing laws to get rid of the illegal aliens. What is it that the Democraps don’t understand about the word “ILLEGAL”. It means they are here ILLEGALLY and have NO RIGHT to be in this Country, for God’s sake. Maryland is a nothing but a disgrace in pandering to illegal aliens. Amazing, they enter this country illegally and dictate to us what they want and the liberals give them what they want. Nothing but a disgrace. Maybe it’s time Maryland get the Democraps out of office, especially that O’Malley!

    Illegal immigration is a cancer, it has to be eradicated not tolerated.

    • Crivera

      Why offending illegal people you don’t loose anything they will still pay for their tuition but why take the opportunity they have to become someone in life. Many of these illegal students are here because their parent brought them here as children they didn’t ask to be here so if they want to go to school why cut them off like that. Not just because u are born here in the united stated means u better than any other person in this world because as we all know “It’s a free country” so nor u no one else has the right to judge anyone because of their racial status…you should be ashamed of yourself. There is nothing to lose just the pride we American hold.

      • Ballard_carol

        It appears that you need to go back to school and learn some proper english.

    • carla

      It always bothers me
      so much when people talk about immigrants coming to this country as if it was
      happening simply out there desire to break the laws. It is totally out of
      context and makes it seem as if people had many choices, but they still prefer
      to come here without documents. Believe me if people had choice they wouldn’t
      be coming here in this manner. It is always easy to point the finger at the
      people themselves and blame them for their own fate, all while overlooking the
      structural factors that force them to migrate. If you are so opposed to people coming
      here without documents, instead of taking out on them, you should write to your
      congress people and ask them to make trade agreements, such as NAFTA Amore fair
      for everyone involved. After all NAFTA and similar agreements are big
      contributors to people having to leave their homes and their families behind to
      seek a better future. As to your argument of breaking the law (one law) leading
      to anarchy, I would say that it seems highly hyperbolic, don’t you think?
      Besides laws are not always right or fair. Remember how until the 1960’s it was
      completely legal to discriminate against black people solely for the color of
      their skin. That was a LAW!!

  • titit

    The law works for who…not the citizens of this country, that is who the laws work against.

  • Jappercat30

    Maryland likes to break the law. Illegal is illegal. It is not fair for American citizens who work and are born here to pay extra tuition for being out of state. Sick of illegals and governments always kissing up to illegals. Sick of it!!! They should be deported.

    • carla

      It always bothers me
      so much when people talk about immigrants coming to this country as if it was
      happening simply out there desire to break the laws. It is totally out of
      context and makes it seem as if people had many choices, but they still prefer
      to come here without documents. Believe me if people had choice they wouldn’t
      be coming here in this manner. It is always easy to point the finger at the
      people themselves and blame them for their own fate, all while overlooking the
      structural factors that force them to migrate. If you are so opposed to people coming
      here without documents, instead of taking out on them, you should write to your
      congress people and ask them to make trade agreements, such as NAFTA Amore fair
      for everyone involved. After all NAFTA and similar agreements are big
      contributors to people having to leave their homes and their families behind to
      seek a better future. As to your argument of breaking the law (one law) leading
      to anarchy, I would say that it seems highly hyperbolic, don’t you think?
      Besides laws are not always right or fair. Remember how until the 1960’s it was
      completely legal to discriminate against black people solely for the color of
      their skin. That was a LAW!!

  • Tired Resident of MD

    Can my LEGAL children go to any school in the nation for IN-STATE prices? I will sign ANY petition to recall this approval. Governor O’Malley is REWARDING ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS! WHERE CAN I SIGN?

  • GIJack

    MD is a racist state that will never change its sick and bias practices

  • VAperson

    “unless you are a NATIVE AMERICAN OR AMERICAN INDIAN you are an immigrant.”