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O’Malley Signs Immigrant Tuition Bill

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ)—Maryland will soon allow illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition. It’s one of hundreds of bills signed into law by the governor.

Pat Warren has more on the support and opposition to the idea.

Governor Martin O’Malley always has the option of doing nothing and allowing a bill to automatically become law. But choosing to sign the Dream Act sends the message that he supports this highly controversial bill.

Immigrant students packed the State House Tuesday to witness the day the state recognized them as residents to allow them to pay cheaper college tuition.

“We’ve been waiting for this moment for the longest time, and it’s finally here,” Lorena Chabarro said.

In the face of a petition drive to put the issue to the voters, O’Malley put his name on the Dream Act.

“This will allow us to have a more highly-educated workforce in our state, which is good for all of us,” O’Malley said.

“I’ve been waiting for this a lot because everybody quits schools because they can’t afford it because international rates are really high, so we were waiting for tuition rates so we could go to college,” said Chabarro. “I can’t wait. I’m really excited.”

But there were some loudly voiced objections.

“The state has to make up that money, and they’re going to make it up on the backs of the people of Maryland,” said Del. Mike McDermott, (R). “There’s no other place for it to come.”

Even as supporters take pictures, a petition drive is underway to force the issue to the ballot in next year’s general election.

“This issue of illegal immigrants getting in-state tuition is bad policy,” said one opponent. “It’s bad for the legal citizens, and I think at a time when education truly is important these individuals need to pursue citizenship then the education and the taxpayers paying for that can be a benefit.”

But for now at least, immigrant students and their supporters are satisfied that they’ve won the day.

The law takes effect in July, unless the petition drive stops it.

Opponents have until May 31 to submit one-third of the 55,700 signatures needed to put the measure on next year’s ballot. The rest are due June 30.

The bill is set to take effect June 30.

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