By the time Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) called for a vote Monday night on a controversial immigration bill, there was little suspense about what the outcome would be. Just before 10:30 p.m., Senate lawmakers approved the measure that would give illegal immigrants who graduate from Maryland high schools in-state tuition breaks at the state’s colleges.
But there was a brief flurry of confusion after the vote when one Prince George’s senator rose to change his recorded vote. Sen. C. Anthony Muse (D) said he wasn’t sure how he would vote until the last minute. He inadvertently voted in favor of the bill, he said, because he thought Miller was first asking lawmakers to cut off debate before calling for a vote on the measure itself.
Muse was the lone senator from Prince George’s and Montgomery counties not to back the bill sponsored by Sen. Victor Ramirez (D-Prince George’s) and heavily lobbied by the immigrant advocacy group, CASA of Maryland, that has its headquarters in Langley Park.
Muse said his decision was based in part on an informal e-mail poll of constituents; the overwhelming response to the bill was negative.
“Our people don’t understand illegal. Illegal means illegal,” he said.
Muse said he was also uncomfortable with the idea of investing in students who may not be able to legally work in the United States after they graduate from college because of their immigration status.
Del. Sheila Hixson (D-Montgomery), who chairs the Ways and Means Committee, said she does not expect her committee to vote until after the budget debate.
“There’s still a lot of tension there,” Hixson said. “We’re trying to let people calm down.”