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Immigrant Tuition Clears House

One of the most heartfelt debates of the General Assembly session came shortly after 8 p.m. last night, as the House of Delegates took up a bill to allow undocumented immigrants who have lived in Maryland for a length of time to pay in-state tuition at Maryland universities and community colleges.

They currently must pay out-of-state tuition.

Republican opponents said the General Assembly would be sanctioning illegal immigration and take away in-state spots from minority students who are legal residents of Maryland.

"After swearing on oath that we would not do this, we are aiding and abetting people who are in this state illegally," Del. Pat McDonough, a Baltimore County Republican, told his colleagues. His voice rose in anger. "Welcome to Maryland. We are a sanctuary state. We will provide services to you. We will break the rule of law."

The comments infuriated many Democrats, who rose in their seats to speak for the bill. The most eloquent was Melvin L. Stukes, a Democrat from Baltimore, who spoke with the voice and fervor of a preacher. He compared opposition to undocumented students to the view of slaves that existed in the 1700s: As less than human.

"Do I need anyone to remind me of the mindset that existed then and still exists today, that some people were considered three-fifths of a human being?" Stukes bellowed. "Are we still saying that some people are less than whole? I don't think so."

The bill passed 81 to 57. It now goes to the Senate, where its prospects are uncertain.

Lisa Rein

By Phyllis Jordan  |  March 27, 2007; 12:06 PM ET
Categories:  General Assembly  
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