House OKs bill to grant illegal immigrants in-state tuition

Foes say proposal invites, rewards their move to Md.

March 25, 2004|By CAPITAL NEWS SERVICE

A bill to grant undocumented immigrants in-state tuition at public colleges and universities received preliminary approval in the House of Delegates yesterday despite being criticized by one lawmaker by who called the proposal "fundamentally wrong."

"We are encouraging people to come to Maryland illegally because we are rewarding what they have done," said Del. Herbert H. McMillan, an Anne Arundel County Republican.

The bill would allow undocumented immigrants to receive in-state tuition provided they attend a Maryland high school for at least three years, graduate and pay withholding tax on income for at least a year.

The student would also have to sign an affidavit affirming they will apply to become a permanent resident.

"This is only rewarding the hard work they've done in their community and their school," said Del. Victor R. Ramirez. The Prince George's County Democrat was born in El Salvador.

But McMillan said illegal immigrants would fill college spots that should rightfully go to Maryland citizens and accused Democrats of being afraid of the legislation's consequences.

A similar bill was vetoed last year by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., but his concerns have been addressed and this year's bill has been "tightened up," said its sponsor, Del. Sheila E. Hixson, a Montgomery County Democrat.

The bill is expected to pass the House of Delegates Thursday and move through the Senate over the next several weeks.

Ehrlich is "not enthusiastic" about the bill, but has not decided if he will veto it should it come to his desk, said spokesman Henry Fawell.

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