Archive for the ‘immigration’ Category

Large Demonstrations Expected in Annapolis Monday Night

Friday, March 11th, 2011

ANNAPOLIS – As the Senate prepares for a final vote on Maryland in-state tuition legislation Monday night, Annapolis police will be closing segments of Rowe Boulevard, Bladen Street and College Avenue approaching the State House, anticipating about 5,000 protesters.

Senate President Mike Miller told senators Friday to arrive early for the session, which starts at 8 p.m. Monday. Miller reminded lawmakers that they would be voting for what was best for the state, and asked them not to be swayed by the crowd.

Miller’s office said the crowd would be a combination of people with interest in the tuition bill, known as the Maryland DREAM Act, and people with interest in retirement and pension security.

The city of Annapolis issued a press release naming Marylanders for Retirement Security, a coalition of organizations representing public employees, as the group responsible for the rally. The city expects 5,000 people.

Maryland Capitol Police said the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees is the only organization that has taken out a permit to protest Monday night. AFSCME said they are expecting about 10,000 people, including AFL-CIO President Richard L. Trumka, demonstrating for pensions, education, health care and retiree benefits.

CASA de Maryland plans to bring 30 to 40 students and members in support of in-state tuition for undocumented students.

Incoming lanes of Rowe Boulevard will be closed at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium from 6:15 to 6:35 p.m. Inbound lanes of Bladen Street from Calvert Street to College Avenue will be closed from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., as will College Avenue from Church Circle to St. John’s Street.

– By Capital News Service’s Holly Nunn.

More Immigration Debate Expected Wednesday Night

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011
Students from Patterson High School in Baltimore wait for lawmakers outside the Senate chamber in Annapolis before debate begins on a bill granting in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants.

Students from Patterson High School in Baltimore wait for lawmakers outside the Senate chamber in Annapolis before debate begins on a bill granting in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants.

ANNAPOLIS – After a charged three-hour morning debate, the Senate on Wednesday adopted the favorable committee report on in-state tuition for undocumented students, but will be back for more debate at 5 p.m.

The time was largely spent on debate over a committee amendment clarifying that undocumented students would be required to first attend the community college that services their high school for an associate’s degree or 60 credits. There had previously been confusion over whether undocumented students could shop around the state for a community college to attend at in-county tuition rates.

The amendment, clarifying that they could not, passed 26-20.

Senate Minority Leader Nancy Jacobs, R-Cecil, said she has at least nine amendments lined up for the evening’s debate, but could prepare more before they assemble.

Concerns raised included the increased cost of providing state aid for community colleges, estimated at almost $800,000 in 2014 and $3.5 million in 2016, depending on how many students take advantage of the law.

Although opponents say the bill would be too expensive, supporters say the legislative analysis doesn’t take into account the benefits of a larger population of college graduates, including increased revenues from income taxes.

“How do you put a value on a college education?” asked Senate President Mike Miller.

The law requires that students attend a Maryland high school for two years, graduate from a Maryland high school, apply within fours years of graduation, and attend their local community college until they receive an associate’s degree. In order to continue receiving in-state tuition, students must then enroll in a public, four-year institution within four years of attaining an associate’s degree or 60 credits.

Students, or their parents or guardians, must show that taxes have been filed during that time. Students must also submit an affidavit testifying that they will apply for legal status within 30 days of becoming eligible.

Opponents of the bill argued that the bill was an unfunded mandate for the local governments that fund community colleges, that students would be incriminating themselves or their parents by revealing their immigration status through tax filings, and that the state would be violating federal law by enacting the legislation.

Supporters, led by Sen. Paul Pinsky, D-Prince George’s, said that local governments determine how to fund their community colleges, that the Internal Revenue does not enforce legal status and therefore students will not be incriminating themselves, and that 10 other states have already enacted similar legislation.

Four of those states are considering repealing those laws.

Opponents also argued that the law would be unfair for legal residents and citizens, giving space and resources to undocumented students.

Testimony on the House of Delegates’ version of the bill is being heard in committee Wednesday.

– By Capital News Service’s Holly Nunn

In-State Tuition Bill Debate Starts at State House

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

ANNAPOLIS — The debate over allowing undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition is heating up in the Senate.

The full Senate started debating the bill a little over an hour ago, and opponents already  have tried to bounce the bill back to committee and delay further debate until Thursday so they can ready more amendments. The Senate rejected both.

The debate grew contentious when Sen. E.J. Pipkin, R-Queen Anne’s, led the charge to have the proposal sent to the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee because it has a fiscal note that wasn’t previously considered.

According to the fiscal note, the proposal would cost the state nearly $800,000 in fiscal 2014. That jumps to about $3.5 million by fiscal 2016.

Opponents argued that any bill that could negatively affect state coffers should be considered first by the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee.

At one point, Senate President Mike Miller resorted to his gavel to quiet Pipkin.

“I didn’t think there was a fiscal note,” Miller said, moments before the his gavel came down. “You’re not recognized.”

The motion to bounce the bill back to committee failed by a 33-14 vote.

Listen to audio of the Senate exchange below:

Shortly after, Senate Minority Leader Nancy Jacobs tried to “special order” the bill, which would essentially delay debate until Thursday,  so that opponents could prepare more amendments.

That motion failed 33-13, but not before senators gave us a snapshot of the contentious debate ahead.

We need to “try and keep this debate as nice as the previous debate on a contentious” bill, Miller said, referencing the relatively smooth ride a same-sex marriage proposal received in the Senate two weeks ago.

Jacobs responded: “That’s not going to happen, Mr. President.”

–By Capital News Service’s David Saleh Rauf

Immigrants Press for Passage of Md. DREAM Act

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011
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Alan Marroquin, a student member of Casa de Maryland, at a meeting between state Sen. Jennie M. Forehand, D-Montgomery County, and pro-immigrant demonstrators in Annapolis. (Photo by Maryland Newsline's Maite Fernandez)

ANNAPOLIS – Hundreds of immigrants converged at the State House Monday to press legislators to pass the Maryland DREAM Act, a bill that would allow students to pay in-state college tuition regardless of their immigration status, if they graduated from a Maryland high school and attended that school for at least two years.

“This is the future of Maryland,” Gustavo Torres, director of the advocacy group Casa de Maryland, told the crowd. He added passage in Maryland could send a strong message to the nation. A similar proposal failed in Congress in December.

A preliminary Senate vote is expected this week.

Torres and others also said they opposed anti-immigration laws being considered by the General Assembly. State Del. Pat McDonough, R-Baltimore County, introduced more than a dozen different bills targeting illegal immigration.

McDonough said in a telephone interview he is opposed to the in-state tuition bill because it benefits people who don’t have a lawful presence in the state. He says it would be expensive.

The state Department of Legislative Services estimates it could cost taxpayers about $3.5 million by fiscal year 2016.

McDonough added that it could cause legal immigrants and Maryland students seeking acceptance to public universities to lose spots. “I think that’s utterly unfair,” McDonough said.

Casa de Maryland organized the demonstration, arranging for 38 buses to take demonstrators to the state capital.

Among the participants were students from several high schools, faith leaders and their congregations and small businesses and organizations, who met with legislators to express their concerns before rallying at Lawyer’s Mall in front of the State House.

Demonstrators said the Maryland DREAM Act is critical because the higher out-of-state tuition rates have kept many illegal immigrants who attended Maryland high schools from attending college.

According to the bill’s fiscal note, the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition rates for full-time undergraduates averages more than $10,000 a year, based on proposed fall 2011 rates.

Advocates for the bill argue that it would give some undocumented students who would qualify as Maryland residents the chance to go to college.

“Yes, we can,” some of the students chanted in Spanish.

Carlos Hernandez, a volunteer at Casa de Maryland, told Montgomery County senators and delegates he opposed anti-immigration bills and the use of E-Verify, a program that allows employers to check the immigration status of potential workers.

One of McDonough’s bills would require all contractors working for the state to use the federal E-Verify program.

Hernandez said the state shouldn’t be using its resources to verify the legal status of workers who only want to bring food to their families.

“E-Verify is a proven, successful program,” McDonough said, and added that the federal government already uses it.

“The only reason anyone would be against is that philosophically they believe it’s OK to violate the law and be rewarded and receive a job,” he said.

Demonstrators also raised concerns about the Secure Communities program, which allows local police to check the fingerprints of detainees against immigration records to identify illegal immigrants. The program has already been implemented in 13 jurisdictions in Maryland, among them Prince George’s and Baltimore counties, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement data.

ICE officials said recently that the program is mandatory and the agency expects every jurisdiction in the country to participate by 2013.

Critics argue that the program can lead to racial profiling and that immigrants will refrain from reporting crimes to the police for fear of being deported.

The Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee voted 7 to 4 last week to approve the Maryland DREAM Act. The bill is scheduled to be heard Wednesday in the House Ways and Means Committee.

More photos in slide show.

–By Maryland Newsline’s Maite Fernandez

DREAM Act Supporters Encouraged By House Passage, Senate Delay

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

Far from being discouraged by the Senate’s decision Thursday to postpone a DREAM Act vote until next week, the immigration bill’s supporters are optimistic that the step will help keep the bill alive and give them time to secure the 60-vote minimum needed to proceed.

“This is good,” said Roberto Juarez, co-founder of the Maryland DREAM Youth Committee. “We have more time now. The Senate is doing this because this is the best chance it has to pass.”

Juarez sat in the House chamber Wednesday night and watched as six of Maryland’s eight U.S. representatives voted for the legislation, which provides a conditional path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who came to the country as children and attend college or serve in the military for two years.

Reps. Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore; Donna Edwards, D-Fort Washington; John Sarbanes, D-Towson; Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Cockeysville; and Chris Van Hollen, D-Kensington voted for the bill, which passed by a 216-198 vote. Rep. Frank Kratovil, D-Stevensville, was the only Maryland Democrat to vote against the bill.

The DREAM Act’s House victory is a testament to the legislation’s building momentum that could push its passage in the Senate, Juarez said.

Leading up to the House vote, Juarez and his group’s members targeted Kratovil by “getting as many calls as we could to his office,” Juarez said.

We were hoping that Congressman Kratovil would vote for the bill,” Juarez said.

But Juarez was expecting the “no” vote from Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Frederick, who opposes the DREAM Act, arguing that it is tantamount to mass amnesty that encourages illegal behavior.

“But we have a lot of support in Maryland,” Juarez said. “Congressman Kratovil and Congressman Bartlett are going to be the only ones in Maryland to vote against it.”
Kratovil’s vote against the DREAM Act was not unexpected. Last year, Kratovil supported the Coast Guard Reauthorization Act to strengthen penalties for unauthorized immigration.

“Rep. Kratovil did not like that this immigration bill didn’t include any provisions to improve enforcement” and did not include improvements to the work visa system, said Kratovil spokesman Kevin Lawlor.

By Capital News Service’s Michaelle Bond