- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 20, 2003

ANNAPOLIS The families of September 11 victims are outraged by bills in the Maryland General Assembly that would allow illegal aliens to apply for driver's licenses and give in-state tuition to their children.
"It seems absurd to me that the people of Maryland would want to spend tax money on people who are here illegally," said Peter Gadiel of 9/11 Families for a Secure America. "The more benefits we give people who break the law guarantees more such people will come here."
House lawmakers could vote as early as today on the tuition bill.
"This is an insult to the memories of our loved ones and a clear violation of the concept of security," Mr. Gadiel, whose son died in the World Trade Center attacks, said while testifying recently about the driver's license bill.
The group opposes a similar bill in the Oklahoma Legislature and supports Virginia lawmakers who want to prohibit illegal aliens from getting driver's licenses and in-state tuition rates.
The Virginia bills have passed in the General Assembly, and Gov. Mark Warner is expected to make a decision on whether to sign them this week.
The Maryland bill to grant in-state tuition to illegal aliens is sponsored by Delegate Sheila E. Hixson, Montgomery Democrat, and has the support of 40 other House Democrats.
The University System of Maryland, which has 11 colleges and universities, also backed the bill this year after opposing it in past years.
If the bill becomes law, a maximum 30 more students would be eligible for in-state tuition each year for the next three years, according to university system estimates.
According to the bill, children of illegal aliens are eligible if they attended a Maryland public or private school for at least three years and graduated from a public or private secondary school in the state.
The bill also states aliens must apply to become permanent residents within 30 days of receiving the tuition discount.
The tuition rate at the University of Maryland in College Park this spring will be $4,800 for in-state students and $14,002 for out-of-state students a difference of $9,202.
The bill appears to have overwhelming support in the Democrat-majority House and withstood two attempts yesterday by Republicans to pass amendments.
Delegate Herbert McMillan, an Anne Arundel Republican who introduced the amendments, said bill supporters claimed they are closing loopholes with the legislation but are really opening new ones.
"We are a nation of immigrants, but we are a nation of laws as well," he said. "I don't want Maryland to become a place where people come because of the laws we pass. We must take care of our people first."
Delegate Victor R. Ramirez, Prince George's Democrat, said the bill would give a fair chance to underprivileged children.
"We are talking about giving them the same opportunity to succeed," he said. "Their families came to this country because of the opportunities."
Supporters of the bill also say the families deserve the tuition discount because they have lived in the country a long time and pay taxes.
"These families have been part of and contributed to Maryland society. We just think this is an issue of fairness," said Ricardo Flores of Public Justice Center, a Baltimore-based immigrant-rights group.
Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, has yet to take a stand on the tuition, but will veto the driver's license legislation, spokesman Henry Fawell said yesterday.
He also said Mr. Ehrlich made the decision, in part, because Department of Transportation and state police officials have testified against the bill.
"Also, in these days of a heightened state of alert, it is important we practice aggressive security measures," Mr. Fawell said.
The bill sponsored by Delegate Joseph F. Vallario Jr., Prince George's County Democrat, which is still awaiting a vote in the House Judiciary Committee, would allow illegal aliens to get driver's licenses by providing copies of their birth certificates or other documents with proof of age and identity.
Mr. Gadiel said his group's major concern was terrorists could try to use the licenses as proof of American citizenship to avoid suspicion. Three of the hijackers on September 11 had driver's licenses issued in Virginia.
"The people who got on those planes had valid IDs," he said. "That is what got them on the planes. If Maryland wants to turn around and give driver's licenses to an army of unidentified people in this country, it is beyond absurd."

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