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Md. Catholics Stand Up For Illegal Immigrant In-State Tuition

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BALTIMORE (WJZ)—Opponents of Maryland’s immigrant in-state tuition law are just 8,000 signatures away from putting the issue on the ballot. Local leaders of the Catholic Church take a stand against the petition.

Kelly McPherson explains why Maryland Catholics won’t sign.

There’s a new voice in the intensifying debate over giving in-state tuition to illegal immigrants living in Maryland.

The Maryland Catholic Conference is saying “a statewide referendum on the issue of immigration will have a needlessly divisive impact on our state, and we urge Catholics and all Marylanders to refrain from signing on to this petition effort.”

State legislators passed the controversial bill this year, but conservative lawmakers are trying to stop it from becoming law by gathering signatures to force a referendum.

“This isn’t really about punishing the children of illegal immigrants,” said Rep. Justin Ready, Carroll County (R). “It’s about the rule of law and fundamental fairness to those members of our society that are paying taxes here legally.”

Other religious leaders have expressed opinions on the issue.

“It’s not always about what’s legal, but what’s just,” said Bishop Douglas Miles. “Keep in mind a half century ago it was legal to keep African Americans and whites separated at lunch counters.”

This is the first time the public policy arm of the regional Catholic Church is sharing its opinion with parishioners, saying “these immigrant students will not take seats from other Maryland resident students who are U.S. citizens, but rather must apply at first to community colleges.”

“When the real people of this state have the opportunity to speak, they will speak loudly and clearly.  I think this is a historic petition,” said Rep. Pat McDonough, Baltimore County (R).

Organizers plan to gather more than 100,000 signatures to ensure that they’ll have the required  amount–58,000– by the end of the month. 

The referendum would take place November 2012.

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