In-state tuition for illegal immigrants moves ahead
The House of Delegates voted Friday to extend in-state college tuition to illegal immigrants -- the highest hurdle so far for a plan that has already passed the Senate.
Delegates engaged in heated debate before approving the legislation by a close vote of 74 to 66. It now returns to the Senate, which has until the Monday night conclusion of session to concur with the House version.
One of the differences in the two chambers' proposals emerged just today, with an amendment to loosen the requirement that an undocumented student show his or her family has paid state taxes.
Del. Luiz R. S. Simmons crafted language to allow a student to convince school officials that relatives have a "serious and substantial reason" they are unable to pay taxes, for instance, because of serious illness.
Simmons, a Montgomery County Democrat, called the amendment "a modest safety valve." Minority Leader Anthony J. O'Donnell said it is more like "a loophole" large enough to accommodate a Greyhound bus.
(pictured: Casa de Maryland director Gustavo Torres embraces Del. Anne Kaiser, the bill floor leader, after the passage of in-state tuition.)
The House also requires that qualified undocumented students register for Selective Service and wants colleges and universities to count the illegal immigrants as out-of-state students so that they do not take seats from other Marylanders.
House passage of a tuition bill came after two days of debate. Yesterday, bill supporters fended off 13 amendment attempts. Simmons' amendment, considered friendly, was adopted, but other amendment attempts today failed.
Under the proposal, an undocumented student who attended at least three years of high school in Maryland and whose parents have paid state taxes would qualify for in-state tuition rates at a community college. After completing two years, he or she could transfer to a four-year institution and again pay the in-state rate.
The bill would save qualifying students from $4,000 to $6,000 a year at community college, according to a legislative analysis. For those who go on to a four-year institution, the savings would increase. In-state tuition at the University of Maryland, College Park this year is $8,655; nonresidents pay $25,795.
One fiscal analysis shows the state would pay about $800,000 next year in state aid to community colleges and cost about $3.5 million by 2016.
At least 10 states extend in-state tuition to illegal immigrants.