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Md. Immigrant Tuition Foes Clear Petition Hurdle

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PatWarrenWebPhoto Pat Warren
Pat Warren joined the Eyewitness News team in 1992. Pat came to WJZ...
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HAGERSTOWN, Md. (WJZ) — There was news Tuesday on two fronts of the immigration tuition issue.  Opponents of the bill that allows undocumented students to pay in-state tuition have gathered enough valid signatures to move forward in their drive to put the matter to the voters.  At the same time, supporters of the measure are celebrating a U.S. Supreme Court decision Monday.

Political reporter Pat Warren has more on the implications for Maryland.

Maryland’s undocumented students cheered the state’s decision to let them pay the lower tuition reserved for legal residents.  Advocates believe the U.S. Supreme Court decision Monday not to hear a challenge to California’s in-state tuition law means Maryland’s law will withstand legal challenge.

Representatives of Casa de Maryland have said all along granting the lower tuition rates to undocumented students is good public policy.

“We have a lot of people who support it and it’s going to benefit the state a lot,” said one.

Mark Garber, associate dean of law at the University of Maryland, says the decision to pass on the California case could have different meanings.

“There may be an inference the court is making: if it doesn’t concern Congress, it shouldn’t concern us,” Graber said.

The Supreme Court may also act if federal court rulings are split.

“If we have one federal court saying you can do it and one federal court saying you can’t do it, there will be a lot of pressure for the Supreme Court to step in,” Graber said.

Organizers of the petition drive to put the issue to Maryland voters intend to apply some of that pressure.

“For those advocates for illegals who think this is wonderful, I’m going to tell you two things.  Number one, we’re gonna get a law in front of the Supreme Court; they’re gonna rule 5-4 against illegals.  Number two, the petition is gonna win.  It’s going to referendum.  We’re going to kill the bill in Maryland and we’re gonna kill it in the United States,” said Delegate Pat McDonough.

The Supreme Court decision may have settled immigrant tuition in California, but apparently as far as Maryland is concerned, everything is still on the table.

The State Board of Elections has validated nearly 20,000 signatures on the petition for referendum but thousands more are still needed.

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