Signing of immigrant tuition bill causes celebration and a repeal attempt

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Immigrant tuition bill is signed by Gov. Martin O'Malley and legislative leaders as sponsors and advocates look on.

Immigrant tuition bill is signed by Gov. Martin O'Malley and legislative leaders as sponsors and advocates look on.

By Len Lazarick

There was more than the usual hubbub at the bill signing ceremony Tuesday when more than 100 people crowded behind Gov. Martin O’Malley for four sets of photos as he signed a bill granting in-state college tuition rates to illegal immigrants who graduate from Maryland high schools.

From senators and clergymen to high school students in T-shirts who wouldn’t give their last names, the mood was joyous as the crowd celebrated years of struggle, phone banks and lobbying.

“It’s one of the happiest days I’ve had in a very long time,” said bill sponsor Sen. Victor Ramirez at a party afterward in the nearby backyard of the offices of the Maryland Catholic Conference, which had strongly backed the bill.

Opponents of the measure who have mounted a petition drive to put the bill on the 2012 ballot were not on hand, except for a few Republican delegates there to see their own legislation signed.

“Our presence is out on the streets,” Del. Pat McDonough, honorary chairman of the drive, said from his Middle River home. “We can’t stop O’Malley from his insanity.”

McDonough said they would release numbers on Sunday about how far they’ve come in amassing the 56,000 signatures they need to collect by June 30. “The pace is enough to get us over the top,” McDonough said, even presuming many of the petition signatures will be invalidated. Del. Nic Kipke, the Anne Arundel County chair of the effort, said it was “upwards of 10,000.”

Interfaith coalition

But for supporters of the measure it was time to enjoy their victory and remember why it happened.

“We stand for equal tuition rates because it is the just thing to do,” said the Rev. Paul Johnson of Grace United Methodist Church in Takoma Park.

The many high school and college students included supporters like Amanda Fisher of Bladensburg High, whose best friend, Angie, came here from Guatemala when she was eight. “I never thought it was fair that she never had the same opportunity as I had,” Fisher said.

Monsignor Mark Brennan of St. Martin of Tours parish in Gaithersburg remembered growing up in a segregated Prince George’s County where “children of color had to be educated separately.”

“I see this effort as part of that great [civil rights] movement,” said Brennan, whose parish offers five weekend masses in Spanish, one in French and six in English. Remembering the Gospel story of the Good Samaritan, he said, “We’re not going to leave our immigrant young people handicapped and beaten up on the side of the road.”

Taking the place of citizens

But Kipke said, “This bill offends people because there’s the fear that illegal immigrants might take the place of a U.S. citizen.”

The bill requires students who were brought to this country illegally to have attended a Maryland high school and graduated. Their parents or guardians must have paid state taxes, and they must be on a path to citizenship.

They must also attend open enrollment community colleges first before going to a four-year school. But Kipke noted that even some programs at community colleges have limited enrollment, like the 80 slots for nursing at Anne Arundel Community College.

The delegate has been going door to door in his district soliciting petition signatures, and he said some people have already printed the petitions off the Internet and encouraged others to sign.
“It’s really kind of cool seeing how many people are getting involved,” Kipke said.

McDonough and Kipke both worked the petitions last weekend at the Springfest in Ocean City where they were attending the state Republican convention. Kipke said they could have signed up even more than the 1,400 registered voters they got, but didn’t have the manpower.

McDonough is surprised by “the level of passion on this issue” and finds, “You don’t get any opposition.”

State GOP chairman Alex Mooney sent out an e-mail to party supporters Tuesday urging them to sign the petition online – and contribute to the party to elect more Republican lawmakers.
“The fact Democrats would force Marylanders to subsidize for tuition benefits for illegal aliens when so many Marylanders cannot even afford to put their own children through college is outrageous,” Mooney said.

Alex Sanchez, O’Malley’s secretary of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, sent out an e-mail about the bill signing entirely in Spanish. His statement is posted on the governor’s official website in English and Spanish.

“In Maryland, we believe in the dignity of every individual, and that there is no such thing as a spare Marylander. Today, Governor O’Malley reaffirmed that belief as Maryland joins 11 other states – including California, New York, Utah and Texas – in extending access to an affordable college education for all high school graduates in our state.”

About The Author

Len Lazarick

Len Lazarick was the founding editor and publisher of and is currently the president of its nonprofit corporation and chairman of its board He was formerly the State House bureau chief of the daily Baltimore Examiner from its start in April 2006 to its demise in February 2009. He was a copy editor on the national desk of the Washington Post for eight years before that, and has spent decades covering Maryland politics and government.


  1. Snorehole

    more corrupt politicians at work

  2. blake sutherland

    It wouldn’t matter if the governor had 50,000 folks standing behind him as he signed this bill. Every survey taken in the past 5 years shows a large majority of Maryland voters do not support helping illegals. As I collect signatures for the petition that will allow voters to repeal this bill I noticed that most everyone was eager to sign. Blacks signed as readily as whites and many said they were democrats. Some legal immigrants were so upset about this bill they could barely sign the petition after striding across the parking. Why would anyone be against letting Maryland voters decide such an important issue? Folks know the petition is the right thing to do and they also know what illegal means.The real question is after the voters reject this bill will the politicians that supported this bill get the message and will the media hound them if they don’t.  

  3. Action, not Words

    If you don’t like it, as grandma would say “Quit your bellyaching and do something about it”, In this case, go to and download the form. You can use one form for all registered voters in your household. I found it very user-friendly, with clear instructions and cleverly designed so that all you have to do after signing is trifold it and add a stamp. No envelope required.

    Polls taken during the legislative session consistently showed that at least 60-70% of registered Maryland voters did not approve of this bill–meaning that if the petition drive can collect enough signatures to put the question on the ballot in 2012, there is a very good possibility that the voters of Maryland can kill this bill. Once it has been verified that enough signatures have been collected, the bill will be considered suspended after the referendum vote in 2012.

    Action, not talk gets results! So after you download, sign and mail the form, go contact everyone you know and urge them to go to the website. My hubby & I have already notified over 500 friends and acquaitances via email. Let’s take this opportunity to remind the members of the MGA that they are there to serve as the people’s representatives–not to ignor their constituents.

  4. Moonbouncebaby



  5. Moonbouncebaby

    when does illegal mean illegal or it does not count for the YT rich folks to take advantage- cheap labor!!

    I tell you what i already changed from dem to ind- why becasue dem and rep get nothingg accomplished you see how independents came to dc and already got them talking babout spending cuts- amen.

    Congress is fake system period- the Rich cannot represent the poor!!!

    Why is Congress allowed to pass laws that do not effect them? Are they not American citizens as well?
    The Elite Congress Children of congress members do not have to pay back their college student loans. How nice! Monday on Fox news they learned that the staffers of Congress family members are exempt from having to pay back student loans. This essentially means that Congressmens pay is several thousand per year more than their salaries. This pay of course is tax-free. This will get national attention if other news networks will broadcast it. When you add this to the below, just where will all of it stop?
    35 States file lawsuit against the Federal Government
    Governors of 35 states have filed suit against the Federal Government for imposing unlawful burdens upon them. It only takes 38 (of the 50) States to convene a Constitutional Convention.
    This will take less than thirty seconds to read. If you agree, please pass it on.
    This is an idea that we should address.
    For too long we have been too complacent about the workings of Congress. Many citizens had no idea that members of Congress could retire with the same pay after only one term, that they specifically exempted themselves from many of the laws they have passed (such as being exempt from any fear of prosecution for sexual harassment) while ordinary citizens must live under those laws. The latest is to exempt themselves from the Healthcare Reform… in all of its forms. Somehow, that doesn’t seem logical. We do not have an elite that is above the law. I truly don’t care if they are Democrat, Republican, Independent, or whatever. The self-serving must stop.
    If each person that receives this will forward it on to 20 people, in three days, most people in The United States of America will have the message. This is one proposal that really should be passed around.
    Proposed 28th Amendment to the United States Constitution: “Congress shall make no law that applies to the citizens of the United States that does not apply equally to the Senators and/or Representatives; and, Congress shall make no law that applies to the Senators and/or Representatives that does not apply equally to the citizens of the United States .”
    We have to pay for the RICh to go to college as well and they want to complain about welfare for people who actually need it.
    Congress works for itself. Not the people. Where are the laws that are passed to help the everyday American? Dem or Rep it does not matter they do nt represent real people!!!!!

    • Anonymous

      I’ve read some of these things that you mentioned in your comment in some e-mails that were forwarded to me, too. I checked them out at, which is a great place to go to find out if urban legends or rumors spread on the internet are true.

      The part about children of members of Congress (or children of Congressional staffers, as it said in the e-mail I got) paying back student loans is not true. Here’s more explanation why.

      The portion about the proposed 28th Amendment was ranked “mostly false,” since it’s mostly something circulating on the internet at this point and arguments commonly put forward to support it are false.

      –Megan Poinski, Associate Editor

  6. Anonymous

    In Maryland, we Democratic state officials, believe in emptying the pockets of taxpayers to enhance our political ambitions. We ignore the wishes of the majority of MD residents & cater to minority issues, especially those that will garner us the most votes.

  7. Taxpayer

    As a citizen of the U.S. and Maryland who’s salary has been successfully halved by the Obama/O’Malley administration’s war on my clients… the audacity of this Administration’s actions are severely vexing.

    We continue to experience devastatingly accelerating debt at both the national and state levels, continuing national unemployment around 9 percent, accelerating gasoline prices and increasing food costs. Our legislators solutions have involved … minuscule spending reductions coupled with substantially increased spending. In fact our Maryland legislation is presently brainstorming available opportunities to raise revenues/taxes during the redistricting session in September (at a point where voters input is substantially blunted).

    This is severely exasperating in itself, without their current initiatives to reward /aid and abet law breaking. It should be helpful if they were to review current laws regarding immigration and illegal entry and presence. On the other hand the laws in effect have been repeatedly called to their attention and they apparently believe, as a Ruling Class, they are above the law.

    When our Nation and our State are achieving a Legitimately balanced budget; our excessive indebtedness has been resolved; we are realizing a 5 percent unemployment rate or less for U.S. citizens and legal emigres; energy prices are substantially reduced and stabilized and the inflation, including energy and food prices have been resolved and Medical (as compared to “coverage” issues) service availability and affordability is effectively addressed … we will be in a better position to consider legally supportable social largesses.

    In the meantime, in my opinion, this exercise is an example if seriously irresponsible governance!

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