As a member of the House of Delegates, one of the responsibilities I take most seriously includes oversight of issues relating to educational policy. I wanted to take the time to inform members of the district of a particular piece of legislation presently in my committee that has been garnering quite a bit of press lately—granting in-state tuition at Maryland colleges and universities to illegal immigrants.
Let me first be clear of my position: I strongly oppose this bill.
The bill would exempt illegal immigrant students that have attended and graduated from a Maryland public high school from being charged the “out of state” tuition rates they currently must pay. I find this to be flawed public policy.
The bill is flawed in two ways: economically and on principle. Passage of this legislation could have a real financial implication for all the taxpayers of Maryland, costing residents almost $1 million a year as early as 2014, and more than $3.5 million by 2016. To me, this makes for bad legislation: with the state facing a serious financial deficit, the government should exhibit caution before entering into new spending on any program, especially a program such as this.
The more fundamental problem with such a piece of legislation is that it is yet another attempt to take away the incentives that exist for immigrants to enter our country legally.
If governments were to grant all the rights and privileges of natural citizens to illegal immigrants, other potential immigrants would have much less motivation to choose the appropriate and legal methods through which they might become legal citizens. To state the issue simply: Why would one go through the rigors of becoming a legal citizen when another can skip the process and still enjoy the same benefits?
While I concede that the federal government has shirked its responsibility to meaningfully reform immigration in America, there is no excuse to condone, and certainly not to reward, illegal behavior.
Moreover, the bill causes me concern because it will allow undocumented immigrants to take in-state slots away from legal, otherwise-deserving Maryland residents, some of whom would be coming from our district.
Our country and our communities have a long tradition of working hard and playing by the rules. Many of our parents, grandparents and great grandparents were all asked to do that.
Such hard work and adherence to the rules was true also of past generations’ efforts to become fully integrated citizens of the United States. If this is a past we are proud of, and if it is a tradition we wish to continue, we must not pass laws such as this.
Rewarding illegal behavior is irresponsible in any context. Because of this, and other reasons, this bill will not receive my vote on the floor of the House of Delegates. As always, I welcome your feedback on this or any other issue.