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In-State Tuition For Illegal Immigrants Sparks Debate

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) -- Marylanders can decide online if they want to put in-state tuition for undocumented students up for a vote next year.

Political reporter Pat Warren reports a bill passed by the General Assembly this month is stirring controversy.

Chanting "Si, Se Puede" ("Yes, we can"), undocumented students moved lawmakers to break the barrier preventing them from taking advantage of the cheaper tuition rates afforded to students who are residents of Maryland.

"This is the last chance that I have before I go out to the real world and start working," said Jaime Rivera.

But the bill is being challenged by lawmakers, who are asking voters to go online and sign a petition to put it on the ballot next year.

"And the way that they're going to do it is by gathering signatures from their families and their neighbors," said Delegate Neil Parrott.

Opponents of the bill call it unfair.

"At a time when Marylanders continue to struggle to pay their bills, their food bills, their gasoline bills...this state and this General Assembly is offering our taxpayer-provided benefits to people who are not even here legally," said House Minority Leader Anthony O'Donnell.

But others continue to believe it's the right thing to do.

"While I'm born in the U.S., I'm documented.  Most of my friends can't go to college with me [because of the out-of-state tuition] and I feel that that's ridiculous," said one.

Petition organizers admit they have their work cut out for them.  They need 58,000 verified signatures by the end of June.

A spokesperson for Casa De Maryland, an immigrant outreach group, says they expect the attempt at referendum to fail.

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