BALTIMORE (WJZ)— Should illegal immigrants living in Maryland be allowed in-state tuition breaks? The Maryland General Assembly says yes, approving it this month.

Political reporter Pat Warren reports a petition for a referendum is underway.

Living the dream. After more than four years of trying, supporters of in-state tuition for undocumented students succeeded in their drive to get legislative go-ahead.

“I have to pay the out-of-state just for being the children of illegal immigrants,” said one.

The General Assembly passed and Governor O’Malley has said he will sign a bill giving those children the right to in-state rates at community colleges as a steppingstone into the university system.

But opponents of the measure are trying to get enough signatures on a petition to put the matter before the voters in the 2012 election.

“The proponents are saying ‘We want to make Maryland better, we want them to have professional jobs,’” said Del. Patrick McDonough, R- Baltimore County. “Well, NSA, Johns Hopkins, no professional organization is going to hire anyone who is here illegally. You can get jobs as nannies and landscapers and at restaurants, but I guarantee you, Johns Hopkins is going to check your lawful status.”

Aude Negrete worked hard to get the bill passed. She’s a member of Casa de Maryland, an immigrant outreach group. She’s confident the measure will withstand the attack.

“It’ll benefit a lot of students and eventually also the community because we’ll have more people educated, contributing to the economy, paying taxes and staying in Maryland so I can see so many benefits to it and I understand it so well that I’m not really worried about it,” Negrete said.

But opponents believe federal law is on their side.

“Now they say maybe they’ll change the federal law someday but we don’t go by maybe, the Nostradamus crystal ball thing- the law is the law,” McDonough said.

The General Assembly has done all it can do to guarantee in-state tuition for undocumented students. Now we’ll see if the voters undo what the lawmakers have done.

It would take around 53,000 verified signatures to put the issue on the ballot.