Immigrant Tuition Bill Falters in Md. Senate

Maryland's labor secretary, Thomas E. Perez, right, joined students in Annapolis to urge approval of a bill granting in-state tuition rates to undocumented immigrants.
Maryland's labor secretary, Thomas E. Perez, right, joined students in Annapolis to urge approval of a bill granting in-state tuition rates to undocumented immigrants. (By Marvin Joseph -- The Washington Post)

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By Ovetta Wiggins
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 7, 2007

The threat of a Senate filibuster has stalled a bill approved by the House of Delegates that would offer in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants in Maryland.

With the 90-day session ending Monday, the measure's chance of passing is dimming quickly. The bill's lack of progress underscores the extent to which immigration has become a flashpoint, even in a state as liberal as Maryland. Several lawmakers said this week that it was politically untenable to wade into the thorny issue of immigration legislation.

The bill, which has the support of Gov. Martin O'Malley (D), was approved by the House last month, 81 to 57, after an emotional debate on the floor.

Opponents of the bill argued during that debate that it sanctioned illegal immigration, whereas proponents said it was discriminatory not to offer the same tuition rates to all high school students.

The bill has faced stiffer opposition in the Senate, where Sen. Joan Carter Conway (D-Baltimore City), who chairs the Senate Education, Health and Environment Committee, said yesterday that she didn't have enough votes to get the bill out of committee. Even if it were to move to the floor, a "filibuster seems very solid," she said.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller (D-Calvert), who voted for a similar measure in 2003, said this week that it might be difficult for some senators to "justify subsidizing students when their parents came here illegally."

Miller said that if a poll were taken of Maryland voters, they probably would oppose the bill 2 to 1.

"It's going to be a close call if it comes on the floor of the Senate," he said.

"It's a shame," said Del. Victor R. Ramirez (D-Prince George's), the bill's sponsor. "Their parents pay taxes; it's only fair that they pay in-state tuition."

Dozens of students, wearing blue T-shirts that read, "We Have a Dream," rallied in front of the State House yesterday, urging lawmakers to pass the bill before the session ends.

They were joined by several elected officials, including Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown (D) and Comptroller Peter Franchot (D).

One student, who would give only his first name, Marco, said he was an honor roll student at Bladensburg High School. He said his dream was to be a pediatrician, but the cost of out-of-state tuition could stymie his goal.


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© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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