No in-state tuition for illegal immigrants

A bill that would have allowed illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition rates died in a Maryland Senate committee on the final day of the Maryland General Assembly’s 2007 session.

Though the bill passed in the House of Delegates in March, Senate Republicans threatened a filibuster if it actually made it to the floor of its chamber.

“As compassionate as the sponsors of this bill are, it doesn’t make sense to give someone a taxpayer subsidized tuition break if they can’t legally get a job in this state once they graduate,” said GOP Sen. Andrew P. Harris, a St. Joseph, Cockeysville, parishioner, who opposed the legislation.

The Maryland Catholic Conference lobbied in favor of the bill, asserting it would give Maryland immigrants who have lived in the state since they were children access to a college education.

“In many cases the children who would benefit from this legislation came to our country not of their own choice, but of their parents’,” said Julie Varner, associate director of social concerns for the Maryland Catholic Conference. “They deserve the same opportunity to succeed, using their own talents and hard work, as their fellow Maryland classmates.”

Gov. Martin J. O’Malley – a St. Francis of Assisi, Baltimore, parishioner who vowed to sign the bill if it reached his desk – expressed his disappointment after the bill died April 9.

Currently 10 other states allow illegal immigrants to qualify for in-state tuition rates.

Similar legislation passed both chambers of the Maryland legislature in 2003, but was vetoed by then Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

“For some reason, this has become a partisan issue here in Maryland,” Ms. Varner said. “In the states that have passed similar legislation, it’s been championed by both Democrats and Republicans.”

Though a dead issue in Maryland this year, the bill’s chief sponsor – El Salvador native Del. Victor R. Ramirez, a Prince George’s County Democrat and parishioner of St. James, Mount Rainier – hopes to drive the bill to victory next session.

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.