Ehrlich turns his attention to illegal immigration
Former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. sought Tuesday to highlight differences with Gov. Martin O'Malley on illegal immigration, saying the issue had "become more of a hot button" since their recent debate at The Washington Post.
Flanked by lawyers and legal immigrants at a law firm in Owings Mills, Ehrlich (R) spoke of the importance of ethnic heritage but criticized -- without citing many specifics -- stands taken by O'Malley (D) and Democrats in the legislature related to drivers' licenses, university tuition and state funding of immigrants rights groups.
Such issues have not been a prominent part of the gubernatorial rematch. But Ehrlich said he has been flooded with requests to speak more on the subject since the Post debate.
In that faceoff, O'Malley endorsed tougher enforcement against illegal immigration by the federal government but said "new Americans" are not to blame for the recession or the rest of the nation's ills.
Ehrlich pounced on the words "New Americans," responding: "If someone breaks into my house, is that a new member of my family?"
O'Malley spokesman Rick Abbruzzese said he was not surprised Ehrlich would seek to elevate the issue in the final week of the election.
"We fully expected in the closing days of this election, even as Maryland residents are already casting their votes, that he will become increasingly negative and desperate as he tries to save his two-decade political career," Abbruzzese said. "This is a desperate attempt to move to the right in the final week of the campaign."
At event in Owings Mills and in a press release, Ehrlich cited several "goals to protect citizenship in Maryland," including a promised "fight to close loopholes" in a 2009 law that phases out Maryland's practice of issuing driver's licenses to illegal immigrants.
The bill, signed by O'Malley, almost immediately made motorists who cannot prove they are in the country legally ineligible for a Maryland licenses.
But under the law, those who previously received licenses by providing certain foreign documents could get a one-time driving permit. Those permits, which cannot be used for access to federal buildings or commercial airplanes, expire in 2015.
Ehrlich said he would also "oppose giving discounted, in-state tuition rates to illegal immigrants at the expense of Maryland students."
In 2007, lawmakers debated -- but did not approve -- a bill to allow in-state university tuition rates for certain non-citizens. O'Malley said he would support the bill under a number of conditions, including limiting it to students who were pursuing a path to citizenship and who had attended Maryland high schools.
On Tuesday, Ehrlich also reiterated his opposition to providing state funding to Casa de Maryland, the immigrant rights group based in Washington's suburbs. During the debate, he accused the group of printing literature aimed at subverting the law and helping illegal immigrants avoid detection -- and accused O'Malley of condoning "illegal" activity, which he denied.
Speaking to reporters after the event, Ehrlich said the group also provides many useful services to legal immigrants, adding: "I'm not interested in cutting them off if they do the right thing."
| October 26, 2010; 2:15 PM ET
Categories: 2010 Elections, John Wagner
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