ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) –Many gathered at the state capital Thursday to debate whether immigrants who are in the country illegally should be granted in-state college tuition rates.
Suzanne Collins reports that bill received preliminary approval.
In the House gallery, more than a dozen people from places like El Salvador and Mexico wore shirts that said, “I am Maryland. Youth Can Dream.”
Lawmakers are debating whether illegal immigrants should be granted lower tuition rates, just like in-state Maryland residents.
“I’m in 9th grade. I want to be a math teacher, and I have to go to college to make that happen, you know?” said one student.
Opponents aggressively questioned advocates of the bill.
“This bill is designed to support people who have come here to game the system,” said one lawmaker.
The bill requires illegal immigrants who want in-state tuition to promise to get U.S. citizenship. They must have attended a Maryland high school for three years. Their guardian or parent must have paid Maryland taxes.
Advocates say citizens already invested in these kids’ secondary education and Maryland’s workforce will benefit if they get a college degree.
“Many of us believe that this should be a priority and that we are investing in our future by passing this bill,” said one lawmaker.
“I understand that many of us don’t believe we should offer inducements to people to break our laws either,” said another lawmaker.
The next question is if they get work skills, can they work?
“My understanding is that someone not here legally, cannot legally work in the United States,” said one lawmaker.
“This is my dream, and I want to go to college. If they do not pass it, I still can’t afford it,” said a student.
There is a lawsuit against Montgomery County College for already allowing illegal immigrants to get in-state tuition. Opponents of the bill say lawsuits like that will continue to grow and the cost to taxpayers will increase.
“The 11 states that have adopted a similar bill, eight of them are in the process of either revoking or going through court,” said another lawmaker.
No amendments were accepted before it preliminarily passed.
There will be a final vote on the bill in the House. It already passed the Senate and the governor says he will sign it.