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Md. Senate weighs bill to give in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants

Carlos Berrios, 17, left, and Elsy Lopez, 15, both of Glen Burnie, waved handmade signs at a rally in Annapolis on Monday. Students and others gathered in support of the legislative proposal to allow undocumented immigrants to pay in-state college tuition rates.
Carlos Berrios, 17, left, and Elsy Lopez, 15, both of Glen Burnie, waved handmade signs at a rally in Annapolis on Monday. Students and others gathered in support of the legislative proposal to allow undocumented immigrants to pay in-state college tuition rates. (Sarah L. Voisin)

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"These individuals have the opportunity for education in the state," David R. Brinkley (R-Frederick) insisted, referring to undocumented immigrants. "The question is who is going to pay for it. The fact is this is going to cost money. And lots of it."

Under the measure, undocumented immigrants would be allowed to pay in-state tuition at community colleges in the same county in which they graduated from high school if their parents were Maryland taxpayers. After two years and 60 college credits, students could transfer to a state college in their junior year if there were space and the students had good grades.

State educators and college administrators have backed the measure.

Advocates said that the difference between in-state and regular tuition for two years of community college and two years at a state school is about $26,000.

About 10 other states, including California, Texas and New York, have passed similar measures. And Montgomery College offers discounted tuition rates to undocumented immigrants who graduate from county high schools, though that practice is being challenged in court by Judicial Watch, a conservative legal group.

In-state tuition for undocumented immigrants is under siege in several states, including Texas and Kansas. The GOP-controlled Virginia House of Delegates passed a bill this year that would have banned undocumented immigrants from public colleges and universities, but the measure died in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

In a strategy pursued by proponents in other states, Maryland legislators are linking in-state tuition benefits to high school attendance, rather than to residency in Maryland, given that undocumented immigrants are not legal residents of the United States.

Pinsky said it is unthinkable that Congress will not one day provide a path to legal status for many of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country. When that day comes, he said, Maryland will be better off if its undocumented immigrants had gone to college and were prepared for citizenship and economic success.

Staff writer Rosalind S. Helderman contributed to this report.


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