Bipartisan interest in immigrant tuition repeal, petitioners say
With about 10 days to go until a critical first deadline on an effort to repeal in-state tuition for illegal immigrants, organizers say they've seen bipartisan support for the effort, reporting that Democrats account for about one-quarter of the people who have downloaded the petition online.
Del. Neil Parrott, a Washington County Republican who is leading the signature drive, has not said how close petitioners are to the 18,500 signatures required by May 31. Today he said the effort is "on track," while acknowledging it "needs a surge" to meet his goal of 35,000 signatures to hand over to the State Board of Elections.
Parrott is seeking the higher number of signatures because strict petition requirements mean the board ends up tossing as much as one-third of them for technical reasons, including a signer's name not matching his or her voter registration information.
Aside from assurances from Parrott and other organizers that the petition drive is going well, there's no real way of knowing how close they are. Parrott said petitioners will be collecting names at Preakness tomorrow, and they've hit numerous local festivals and community meetings across the state.
Casa de Maryland this week held its own event, featuring Lt. Giv. Anthony Brown, to discuss the merits of the tuition measure.
If the board determines petitioners have met the 18,000-signature benchmark, they can continue collecting. The full petition -- containing more than 55,000 signatures -- would then be due by the end of June.
Parrott said he is encouraged by what he said is the bipartisan interest in the repeal.
"Marylanders across the state and across political boundaries understand that this bill costs too much, and that rather than enforcing our immigration laws, it encourages violations of federal immigration laws in our state," Parrott said in a statement. "Marylanders understand that overturning this bill is just a matter of common sense."
Democrats also are helping to circulate the petition. Sen. Jim Brochin of Baltimore County said he has helped constituents sign up, and his insurance office employees also wanted petitions to circulate.
The petition drive kicked off in earnest about a month ago, with the launch of mdpetitions.com.
Lawmakers this year voted to give undocumented students who have attended at least three years of Maryland high school and whose parents pay taxes access to in-state tuition, rather than charging the far higher out-of-state rates. Advocates argued that it is in the state's economic interest to help qualified Marylanders, even if they are here illegally, continue their education.
Gov. Martin O'Malley signed the bill about a week ago, and it is slated to take effect July 1. A successful petition drive would halt the bill, putting it in limbo until Maryland voters get a chance to weigh in at the polls in November 2012.