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House Passes Bill That Would Give In-State Tuition To Illegal Immigrants

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) -- A landmark bill that gives undocumented students in-state tuition is one step closer to becoming law.  House lawmakers worked overtime and passed the Dream Act Friday night.  But, as Gigi Barnett explains, the opposition is still strong.

On the last working weekend for state lawmakers, House members pushed to pass a bill that would give in-state tuition to illegal immigrants.  It's called the Dream Act and it's been a hot button issue in Annapolis this session, sparking demonstrations and debate.

"It wasn't their fault that they're here.  They should be able to get a good education," said Delegate Hattie Harrison.

Baltimore Delegate Hattie Harrison says she voted for the bill.  She's the longest serving delegate and earned a doctorate two years ago.  She says her education was in jeopardy at one time, too.

"I dropped out and my father came home one day and said, `You're going back to school.'  I was living in Charlotte, N.C.---that's where I grew up---and he said, `You're going back to school,'" Harrison said.

Although the House approved the bill, opposition to it still stands.

"It boils down to the basic philosophy of whether we're going to teach right from wrong and what we're saying now is, `Go ahead and violate the law and you'll get rewarded,'" said Cecil County Delegate Michael Smigel.

In addition to that, Smigel says in-state tuition for undocumented students will stretch the state's already ailing budget and he says the Dream Act could lure more illegal immigrants to Maryland.

"Come to Maryland because now we will educate at taxpayer expense," Smigel said.

The bill now moves to the Senate and, if approved, Maryland would join New York as the only two states on the East Coast that give tuition benefits to illegal immigrants.

O'Malley says he supports the Dream Act and plans to sign it into law if it reaches his desk by the end of the legislative session on Monday night.

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