House OKs tuition break for aliens

They would pay in-state rates at public colleges

March 22, 2003|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

A proposal to give in-state tuition rates to undocumented immigrants who live in Maryland won approval in the House of Delegates yesterday.

In a vote of 82-51, the House passed the measure with minimal discussion. A similar bill is being debated on the Senate floor.

"This is a significant day in the state of Maryland ... and it's a big day for American immigrants," said Del. Victor C. Ramirez, a Prince George's County Democrat.

If the bill becomes law, it would give in-state tuition rates at Maryland's public colleges and universities to students who have attended public schools in the state for at least three years and graduated.

An amendment to the House bill requires those who take the benefit to promise they will apply for permanent residence when eligible.

Some lawmakers criticized the legislation because it aids people who do not have legal residency in the United States. They questioned the benefit of U.S. citizenship if people can enjoy programs and services without it.

"I don't think that's fair," Del. Herbert H. McMillan, an Anne Arundel County Republican, said during debate this week. "I don't think that's right. I don't think this is a good bill."

Maryland has hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants, many of whom came to the United States as elementary school-age children and then grew up in the state's public education system.

But because they do not have a recognized status from the government, they cannot receive in-state tuition, making it impossible for many of them to go to college. In some cases, undocumented immigrants are charged tuition rates of two or three times the in-state fees.

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