Senate to debate tuition break

General Assembly

April 07, 2007|By Kelly Brewington | Kelly Brewington,Sun Reporter

The Maryland Senate appears headed toward a bitter debate over a contentious measure that would allow illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition rates at Maryland colleges.

Senate Republicans, saying the measure would reward lawbreakers, have threatened to filibuster if the bill comes to the floor.

"This is terrible policy," said Sen. Andrew P. Harris, a Baltimore County Republican. He said while Democrats may have the votes to break a filibuster, he is doubtful they would try to do so.

"I don't think anyone would want to expend political capital on this issue," Harris said.

Earlier yesterday, scores of bill supporters wearing "We have a DREAM" T-shirts, held a rally in front of the State House demanding its passage. Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown told supporters he hoped the Senate would approve the measure. Supporters said many of the students did not make the choice to come to the United States illegally and have lived here since they were young children.

Sen. Joan Carter Conway, a Baltimore Democrat who heads the committee considering the bill, said the measure has a chance only if it is amended to require students to attend Maryland high schools for four years before being eligible for in-state rates. The current language in the bill states a student may be eligible after two years.

"If you are going to get in-state tuition, then you should at least be here for four years," Conway said.

In addition, the eligible students must demonstrate an intent to apply for legal residence and show that their parents have paid Maryland taxes the previous year.

The House of Delegates passed the measure last month after an emotional debate. Gov. Martin O'Malley has said he would sign the bill. If approved, Maryland would join 10 other states that allow illegal immigrants to qualify for in-state tuition rates.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said yesterday the Senate is "sharply divided."

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