Final vote on immigrant in-state tuition bill expected Friday

Opponents vow to challenge law if it is passed

A vote is expected Friday in the House of Delegates, on a bill that would grant in-state tuition at Maryland colleges to illegal immigrants and their children.

Supporters say the bill would make it possible for them to pursue their dreams. ‘'To get a business degree. A major in business, a minor in psychology and probably in counseling also,' said an Annapolis High School student who identified herself as ‘Mercy.'

In fact advocates call it, 'The Dream Act.' It would give college students from illegal immigrant families ‘in state' tuition -- first, for two years at community college. Then they could complete their education -- at the in-state rate -- at a four-year college. ‘It doesn't give any of the students who are affected by this bill anything extra,' said Elizabeth Alex, of the group CASA of Maryland. ‘In fact the standard is significantly more stringent for them than it is for us citizens who have been here.'

The students would have to prove they or their parents paid Maryland taxes for three years, and that they are seeking to become US citizens. ‘We're not stealing anything from anyone. We're just asking for a chance to better our lives. It's not like we're not criminals or anything,' Mercy said.

Opponents tried to slow the bill's progress on the house floor -- offering a number of amendments, which were voted down.

‘Number one it's a state mandate on local government and local community colleges. Number two it's going to cost a lot of money,' said Del. Pat McDonough (R-Baltimore County).

Right now, out of state students pay about $25,000 a year in tuition. In state, the rate is just $8,400 a year. ‘The average person, and I agree with them 100 percent, can't understand why state taxpayers have to provide a benefit to people who are here illegally,' Del. McDonough said.

The bill's supporters say the children of illegal immigrants shouldn't be punished for the actions of their parents. But Del. McDonough says he believes the General Assembly is going against the will of the people. ‘They say, 'Don't visit the sins of the parents on the children.' Well what do they want us to do -- visit the sins of the parents on the taxpayers? That is what they're saying,' he said.

The bill has already passed in the State Senate. If the bill passes in the House, Del. McDonough says opponents will continue to fight it by trying to force a referendum -- he also says they'll challenge the legality of the in-state tuition bill in court.

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