August 11, 2018
Politics & Opinion
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Legislation Affecting Immigrants

Bryan Simonaire
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April 17, 2018

You would think, especially in an election year, that the primary focus of our Annapolis representatives would be on legal residents within Maryland. Surprisingly, this year turned out to be a great year for people residing unlawfully in Maryland.

Several years ago, Maryland voters approved a measure to give those unlawfully in our state equal footing to attend community college at the same discounted in-county tuition rate as a legal citizen.

However, this year, the General Assembly passed numerous pieces of legislation to provide additional huge, expensive taxpayer-funded benefits for individuals who are here unlawfully. Not only will they receive these benefits, but also it will be at the expense of citizens who would have received those benefits instead.

I understand why some people would risk breaking our laws to get into America, but understanding is completely different from supporting policies that reward such behavior.

 

Voting Rights

This year, I was shocked that the General Assembly permitted voting rights to those unlawfully in our state.

The Senate debated prohibiting those individuals the right to vote in certain elections. The prohibition was defeated by a 16 to 26 vote along mainly party line. Therefore, more jurisdictions will continue to allow voting rights to those unlawfully in our state.

 

Free Community College

Another effort that passed was providing free community college for a small number of students. This grant has limited money and not all applying students would receive the money. Despite that, the Senate specifically allowed those unlawfully in our state to receive a full tuition and fees based on need. Therefore, if someone comes into our country illegally and is relatively poor, they would take the place of citizens receiving those grants if they were not quite as needy.

 

Free Four-year College

One more effort passed, altering the state’s free four-year college tuition, room and board grants to the neediest and lowest-income students.

This bill, plain and simple, makes the grant available to people unlawfully here, again at the expense of citizens.

There are currently more applicants than available grants, and students who apply are primarily awarded funds on the basis of need. So for every full-ride grant awarded to an unlawful individual, one citizen, previously slated to receive it, would be denied.

 

Priority Over Citizens

With the majority in the Senate deciding that they wanted those unlawfully here to be in the applicant pool for limited free college grants, the debate turned to the priority of the award.

An amendment was offered to say that citizens would be given first priority to receive the full-ride grants before awarding to those that were here unlawfully. The Senate rejected that effort by a vote of 16-30.

So what do I tell my constituents when they ask, “Why did my qualified son or daughter not receive a grant when a student here unlawfully received one?”

 

Student Debt Forgiveness

I offered another commonsense amendment to an existing program with limited funds that helps individuals pay off their student loans.

I simply proposed to add to the existing prioritization considerations that the state take into account whether the individual was a citizen.

The Senate rejected it (11-35) and said citizens should not have any priority over those individuals unlawfully in our country.

 

Making Sense Of It All

Permitting voting rights and providing free four-year and community college tuition at the expense of citizens is bad public policy and it’s inherently unfair to those who abide by our laws. Denying citizens priority when they apply for grants is unfathomable.

These are the facts and I will let you ponder them. If you would like more information, contact me at bryan.simonaire@senate.state.md.us or call 410-841-3658.


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