- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 15, 2003

D.C. Mayor Tony Williams whose support for school choice for city students doesn’t sit well with congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton isn’t the only local black leader ruffling some feathers by challenging the canons of orthodox left-liberalism. In neighboring Maryland, the state chapter of the NAACP is urging Gov. Robert Ehrlich to delay signing a bill that would give lower in-state college tuition rates for illegal immigrants. Although the great majority of black lawmakers in the General Assembly voted in favor of the bill during this year’s legislative session, black Marylanders seem to be having second thoughts, to the displeasure of the staunchest liberal ideologues in Maryland’s Legislative Black Caucus, like Delegate Salima Marriott of Baltimore. Mr. Ehrlich has yet to decide what he will do.

We’ve made the point time and again that, at a time of austerity and cutbacks in higher education and other areas of the budget, it makes absolutely no sense to provide tuition breaks to persons in the country illegally. Right now, students to who qualify for in-state tuition pay $4,800 to attend the University of Maryland at College Park; out-of-state students, by contrast, pay more than $14,000, a difference of difference of slightly over $9,200 per year. Illegal aliens (folks who are breaking the law by being in this country) can currently attend Maryland schools if they pay the higher out-of-state rate. The legislation passed by the General Assembly would allow the illegals to pay the same amount as a lower-income student from Baltimore, P.G. County or rural Garrett County who is playing by the rules. That’s simply wrong.

Recognizing the inequities created by the bill, members of the state NAACP requested that Mr. Ehrlich delay signing it, expressing concerns that the bill would take money away from minority and low-income students who are U.S. citizens. It remains to be seen whether the state chapter will come under pressure from the national NAACP to conform its position to the traditional liberal orthodoxy embraced by that organization: supporting educational benefits for legal residents and illegal aliens alike. (Over the past few decades, numerous local NAACP chapters which opposed forced busing to achieve racial balance were pressured to reverse their stance by the national organization.)

While the state NAACP has thus far taken a careful, responsible approach, a number of prominent Republicans such as Montgomery County Chairman Stephen Abrams and a group called the Hispanic Republican Caucus are pushing Mr. Ehrlich to sign the bill in the hope that this will somehow help the state party. They are wrong: For one thing, many Hispanics who entered this country legally do not look kindly on giving more generous subsidies to lawbreakers. By vetoing this irresponsible bill, Mr. Ehrlich would make it clear that, when it comes to providing college scholarships in Maryland, legal immigrants are more deserving than illegal ones.

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