Opponents of tuition bill move to add military to plan

April 04, 2003|By David Nitkin | David Nitkin,SUN STAFF

Opponents of a proposal allowing undocumented immigrants to pay in-state university tuition have focused their displeasure in a new area: They want the plan extended to include members of the military and their families.

After impassioned debate yesterday, the House of Delegates amended a bill that would provide the new tuition benefit to illegal aliens to also cover those serving in the military.

"I think it adds balance to the bill," said Del. Herbert H. McMillan, an Anne Arundel County Republican who sponsored the amendment. "Right now, the bill is severely unbalanced. It makes a bad bill better."

McMillan's idea passed 68-65, after a heated debate during which supporters of the initial plan said the legislation was being taken hostage.

"This is about trying to kill this bill through subterfuge," said Del. Anne Healey, a Prince George's County Democrat.

The immigrant tuition plan has passed the House and Senate, although in different forms.

Advocates say that children of immigrant families who pay taxes and attend local public schools should be treated as Maryland residents when they attend college. Under the bill, undocumented aliens who graduated from a Maryland high school after spending at least three years in school would qualify for the benefit.

Some delegates said members of the military should get the same consideration, an emotional argument during a time of war.

"What would we do if Pfc. Jessica Lynch was rotated and stationed in Maryland for a period of time?" asked Del. Charles R. Boutin, a Harford County Republican, referring to the young West Virginia soldier who was missing in Iraq and rescued this week.

Proponents conceded that they did not know how much it might cost or how many people would be eligible.

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