May 24, 2011

Opponents of immigrant tuition say they have enough signatures for first deadline

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Michael Dawson and Peter Oliphant help collect signatures on Route 40 in Cecil County.

Michael Dawson and Peter Oliphant help collect signatures on Route 40 in Cecil County.

By Glynis Kazanjian

For MarylandReporter.com

Michael Dawson and Peter Oliphant help collect signatures on Route 40 in Cecil County.

Michael Dawson and Peter Oliphant help collect signatures on Route 40 in Cecil County.

With a week to go, the group leading the effort to repeal in-state tuition for illegal immigrants said they have enough valid signatures to meet the first benchmark of 18,579 signatures by May 31. Plus there are 10,000 to 15,000 more where it is asking voters to fix minor problems with the petitions.

“I can tell you we have over 18,000 valid signatures,” said Kari Snyder, legislative aide to Del. Neil Parrott, R-Washington County, a leader of the referendum effort.

In-state tuition for undocumented high school graduates was signed into law two weeks ago by Gov. Martin O’Malley, after close votes on the measure in the final hours of the legislative session April 11.

Snyder says the group has their own internal, pre-validating process which relies on a four page signature verification document.  So far the group has collected between 28,000 and 33,000 signed petitions.

“There are 10,000 to 15,000 signatures that aren’t valid,” Snyder said.  “Some petitions are missing the date, some are missing an initial.”

Petitions with errors are being sent back with a request to correct the error.

“I have received word from MD Petition Headquarters that a number of petition forms submitted by individuals or families were done incorrectly,” Brad Botwin of Help Save Maryland, wrote in an e-mail to supporters last week.  “In most cases, but not all, the submitter forgot to include both pages (signature page and bill text page).

Tea Party groups, Republicans and some Democrats are participating in the petition gathering process.  The state Republican Party has sent out e-mails and mailings encouraging supporters to sign the petitions and contribute to the party.

The group has to collect 55,736 valid signatures by June 30 in order to place on the 2012 ballot the issue of whether or not illegal immigrants should be allowed to pay in-state college tuition rates at community colleges and eventually at four-year institutions.

Snyder says the results of gathered petition signatures will ultimately be challenged by either side. She said she expects the bill’s lead sponsor Sen. Victor Ramirez, or CASA de Maryland, an immigrants’ rights advocacy group, to legally the challenge the results if MD Petitions.com succeeds in gathering enough signatures.

“If we are successful in getting the signatures, they will take us to court,” Snyder said.  “If we do not get enough valid signatures [because so many were rejected], we will challenge.  Either way, it’s going to go to court.”

“It’ll be fair to the process to make sure that the signatures are valid,” Ramirez said. “We’ve got to make sure they’re following the proper criteria, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there,” said Ramirez, whose district includes Hyattsville.  “Out of all the things we have to do in Maryland, this is important, but we’ve got bigger fish to fry than trying to deny access to Maryland high school graduates.”

CORRECTED: Under the new law, Maryland high school graduates can pay in-state college tuition rates if they’ve attended high school for three years and graduated; prove they or their family have filed a Maryland income tax return paid federal income taxes; and, agree to apply for citizenship when eligible. Students, or their families, must also pay taxes while the student is enrolled in college. After completing 60 credits at  a community college, a student is then is eligible to pay in-state tuition at a Maryland four-year higher education institution.

The Department of Legislative Services issued a revised fiscal note last week to take into account a last minute amendment requiring illegal immigrants to be counted as out-of-state students in determining the permissible percentage of out-of-state students, which is capped at 30%.

At most state universities, out-of-state students make up no more than 10% of undergraduates “so the impact of the bill will not be significant,” the legislative analysis said. “The impact may be significant at those campuses with out-of-state enrollment of 20% or more: Towson University; University of Maryland, College Park; and University of Maryland Eastern Shore.

“For these institutions, tuition revenues may decrease significantly depending on how many undocumented students enroll and pay in-state tuition. However, to the extent undocumented students would not have otherwise enrolled because they could not afford to pay out-of-state tuition, or the institutions increase undergraduate enrollment overall, the impact may be minimal.”

The law will become effective July 1, unless the required number of valid signatures is collected, in which case, the new law will be put before the voters on the 2012 ballot.

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  • MR. RAMIREZ STATES THAT EXAMINE THE SIGNITURE WILL HAVE TO FIT WITHIN CASA CRITERA, MR. RAMIREZ YOU STILL HAVE NOT ANSWER MY QUESTION TO YOU, AND THAT IS; DID YOUR PARENTS COME TO THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA LEGALLY? ARE THEY CITIZEN NOW OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA? ARE YOU MR RAMIREZ A NATURAL BORN CITIZEN OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA? AND YOU MR RAMIREZ, ARE YOU A LEGAL CITIZEN OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA? AND CAN YOU PROVE IT WITH  LEGAL DOCUMENTS

  • RuleOfLaw

    One of your statements is false, and it keep being repeated in the media.  You state that in order to qualify for in-state tuition, students must prove they or their family paid federal income taxes.  That is incorrect.  The language of the law states they must provide “documentation that the individual or the individual’s parent…has filed a Maryland income tax return.”  Someone can file a return in order to receive a credit and NEVER pay a dime.

  • RuleOfLaw

    One of your statements is false, and it keep being repeated in the media.  You state that in order to qualify for in-state tuition, students must prove they or their family paid federal income taxes.  That is incorrect.  The language of the law states they must provide “documentation that the individual or the individual’s parent…has filed a Maryland income tax return.”  Someone can file a return in order to receive a credit and NEVER pay a dime.

    • Anonymous

      You are correct, and we have corrected the story.

  • marge

    Taxpayers in Md pay in excess of $1billion a year to children of illegal aliens for their schooling from kindergarten through grade 12.. Why do taxpayers have to pay any of it.. Now they want taxes to subsidize their college. We are stressed enough.. O’malley gives to his New americans and take away college grants from our scholar citizens.. Its no secret that o’malley has relied on the support of casa de md and their latino immigrants to win elections. He pays well with tax $$.. Md is now the 4th highest taxed state in the country. People need to vote with caution. This once beautiful state is now a cess pool of corruption and greed. Many leaders have deep pockets.. NO way a citizen should be forced to pay for non citizens. Why isn’t the half million illegals in md becoming citizens? Its more productive with our present leaders to stay illegal. They being fed, housed, clothed with welfare because of their many babies for profit. They get energy assistance and rental assistance. They drive our roads using fake id drivers license and most can’t read the signs and they are voting..

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  • Jean Keller

    You realize that this is a gateway to even more.  First it will be to allow them to attend college for in-state rates.  Then, of course, because all of their income is earned illegally – and therefore will not be documented fully –  their “lack” of income will qualify them for state grants and special scholarships will be established since they can claim poverty whether it’s real or not.  Why?  Because their income is not accurately and legally documented.

    So, at the college level, legal citizens will lose spaces at the college and those legal citizens will ultimately pay more to subsidize the “poor illegal immigrant”.  College in Maryland – already pretty expensive comparatively speaking —  is about to get a lot more expensive here in Maryland.

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