- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 8, 2003

The Maryland chapter of the NAACP is asking Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. to delay signing a bill that would give in-state tuition rates to illegal immigrants until the impact on minorities can be studied.Members of the state chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People made the request and signed a resolution over concerns that the bill would take money from tuition programs for minority and low-income students who are U.S. citizens.Nearly all black lawmakers in Maryland voted for the bill, which would allow illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition at public universities, provided they attended a Maryland public or private high school for three years and graduated.Hilary Shelton, chief of the NAACP’s Washington chapter, which analyzes legislative policy, said yesterday the association historically has supported education, health care and housing benefits for legal and illegal immigrants.However, Maryland has a deep budget shortfall, so state NAACP members have a legitimate question about how Annapolis lawmakers would pay for new benefits without cutting existing ones, he said.”The question raised here is in the context of a governor already cutting social programs,” Mr. Shelton said. “There is a sense that the governor is being disingenuous as he prepares to sign the bill.”The bill allows more state aid for community colleges in 2006 because of the increased enrollments of in-state students. But critics say the consequence is state universities would lose $3.3 million over the next five years.The NAACP is one of several political groups to offer opinions on the bill.The Washington Times reported Sunday that several Republican Party officials were supporting the bill, though most party lawmakers voted against it.Beyond their concern that the bill would take money from colleges and universities with mostly minority students, NAACP members said the General Assembly failed to consider that immigrants would flock to Maryland for the low tuition rates.The two NAACP members who signed the resolution — Herbert Lindsey, president of the Maryland State Conference of Branches, and Carolyn Wilderson, chairman of the education committee — did not return calls for this article.Black lawmakers who supported the bill said it would not take opportunities from minority students or take money from education programs.Delegate Salima Siler Marriott, Baltimore Democrat and a co-sponsor of the bill, said theNAACP should support equal opportunity for all minorities, not just blacks.”This was a misguided decision by the local chapter,” she said.Delegate Adrienne A. Jones, Baltimore County Democrat and a co-sponsor, said the bill would not allow college administrators to discriminate against black students applying for in-state tuition.”A small number of illegal immigrants would be eligible to take advantage of the in-state tuition, and they have to meet the eligibility criteria before they get it,” she said.Mr. Ehrlich has yet to decide on the bill. A spokesman said the governor is meeting with supporters, critics and legislative staff and could get the bill for signing on Tuesday or May 22.Under Maryland law, a bill automatically becomes law if the governor does not sign or veto it.Republicans who have opposed the bill are lauding the NAACP resolution.”I am pleased and proud to join the NAACP in recognizing that our hard-won civil rights and the privileges of U.S. citizenship should not be compromised in the name of political expediency,” said Delegate Herb McMillan, Anne Arundel Republican.Mr. McMillan said he supports legal immigrants who “work hard and play by the rules,” but rewarding illegal aliens at the expense of citizens is “unfair and un-American.”

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