After a midday Senate filibuster temporarily delayed its passage, the bill granting in-state tuition for illegal immigrants was sent to Gov. Martin O’Malley for his promised signature Monday night.
As the House of Delegates approved the final negotiated version of the bill on Monday night with a vote of 74-65, the student lobbyists sitting in the galleries on either side of the chamber burst into cheers. The finalized bill had passed the Senate with a vote of 27-19 less than an hour earlier.
The House approval was the last step in a long day to get the bill through the General Assembly, preceded by several days of long hours of debate in both chambers that had been dominated by opponents of the measure.
“We’d all love to have people educated, but the issue is who pays for it,” said Sen. David Brinkley, R-Frederick, who led a short filibuster that sent the bill to a conference committee.
“They are not residents,” Brinkley said. “They are not legally here.”
Those comments summed up hours of argument against the bill.
In discussing why he would sign the legislation, O’Malley said, “We want people to be as highly educated as they can be.” He said it was not right to punish the students for a broken immigration system.
“What we should do is to fix naturalization and fix the immigration laws,” O’Malley said.
When O’Malley signs the bill, many of the students who applauded its passage may be eligible for in-state tuition at a Maryland state college or university. They must meet several requirements, including living in Maryland at least three years and graduating from a Maryland high school, being able to prove that their parents or legal guardians have paid taxes, filing an affidavit that they will begin the process toward legal residency, and registering for selective service.
The bill’s path to full approval was full of controversy and impassioned debate. It first passed the full Senate about a month ago, also with 27 votes. Then it began a contentious ride through the House of Delegates. After hours of debate and amendments, it was approved by the House on Friday. The House also added amendments clarifying that illegal immigrant students will not take up seats intended for Maryland students, and adding other options to prove payment of taxes.
The conference committee removed an amendment allowing for other options to prove payment of taxes. Compared to the bumpy path the bill had seen in both chambers every time it came up for debate or a vote, the final version received easy approval.
Legislators who oppose the measure have promised to file litigation against it.