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House Panel Approves Immigrant Tuition Bill

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Illegal immigrants, Tuition, School, Montgomery College in Rockville

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — House lawmakers advanced a bill Tuesday to grant in-state tuition rates at Maryland colleges to illegal immigrants if they complete two years at a community college and can show their parents paid state taxes for the three years before they enrolled.

The House Ways and Means Committee added a requirement that immigrants sign up for the Selective Service to receive the reduced tuition. It also changed the definition of an immigrant receiving the reduced tuition rate to count as a part of a school’s out-of-state student pool, so in-state slots for Maryland residents are unaffected.

Delegate Jay Walker, D-Prince George’s, recounted visiting Thomas Jefferson’s estate, Monticello, while trying to decide whether he would support the tuition proposal. He told lawmakers that Jefferson supported education for everyone, even his slaves.

“Who are we to stand in the way of education for people?” said Walker, who is black.

Lawmakers debated the measure for an hour, often recounting deeply personal stories about their families’ struggles trying to make it in America.

Republicans opposing the measure said their forbearers worked hard to succeed without seeking government help. Delegate Kathy Afzali, R-Frederick, whose grandfather was an Italian immigrant, said her family could not afford to put her through college — so she paid her own way.

“I didn’t expect anyone to pay for it,” she said.

House Majority Leader Kumar Barve, D-Montgomery, said his grandfather, who emigrated from India to upstate New York to work as a research scientist, faced discrimination throughout his life. His family had to stay with white families when they would travel in the 1920s because hotels would not rent rooms to dark-skinned people, he said.

“It doesn’t matter whether you’re here legally or not, other people will make your life miserable,” he said.

The panel voted 14-7 to advance the bill. Delegate Jon Cardin, D-Baltimore County, did not vote because he said he could not decide whether the bill — which carries a multimillion dollar price tag for the state — should be approved while lawmakers are making deep cuts to the budget.

The bill now goes to the full House for consideration, with less than a week left before lawmakers leave town. The Senate approved the bill a month ago.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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