Yesterday liberal Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley (D) signed into law a measure allowing illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition rates at public colleges and universities.
Covering the story today, the Washington Post offered this bland print edition headline on page B1: "O'Malley signs bill allowing immigrant tuition breaks."
The move "bucks trend in other states" and a "showdown with opponents is expected," subsequent subheadings trumpeted.
Yet staff writer Ann Marimow waited until paragraph 16 in her 23-paragraph article to get around to quoting one such opponent:
Del. Pat McDonough (R-Baltimore County), one of the lawmakers leading the opposition, said the petition effort is “ahead of schedule” and that he has been overwhelmed by the level of “passion and rage” from residents against the measure.
Opponents say they object to the state subsidizing the cost of education for illegal immigrants. In-state students, for instance, pay $8,400 in annual tuition at the University of Maryland compared to the $24,800 paid by out-of-state students.
McDonough acknowledged the challenge, however, of collecting tens of thousands of valid signatures in such a short period. Maryland’s law makes it difficult to qualify for the ballot. The last law petitioned to statewide referendum was a 1992 measure loosening restrictions on abortions.
“Will we hit the mark? I don’t know,” McDonough said. “The enthusiasm is there.”
For her part, Annie Linskey of the equally liberal Baltimore Sun painted McDonough as working feverishly to stand in the way of illegal immigrants' dreams of a higher education (emphasis mine):
Dustin, who did not want to give his last name because he is not in the country legally, watched Tuesday's ceremony and posed for one of the five official photos of the bill-signing.
He said he came to Maryland from Mexico City three years ago in search of a better life, leaving his parents and family behind. Once here, Dustin said, he secured a job at a Mexican restaurant and began attending high school.
"I wanted to improve myself," he said. Dustin said he'll graduate from high school this year with a 3.8 grade point average and would like to enroll in college this fall — paying the in-state rate.
Opponents, however, are working hard to prevent that from happening.
Del. Patrick L. McDonough, who frequently fights efforts to extend rights to illegal immigrants, called a news conference at his Essex office to denounce O'Malley's decision to sign the bill.
"He can take that pen and stick it in the back of taxpayers," McDonough said in an interview. He says the bill violates federal immigration statutes and the state can't afford the program. Fiscal analysts estimate it will drain $3.5 million by 2016, though McDonough and other critics say that number is too low.
McDonough said he spent most the day fielding over 100 phone calls from Marylanders who want to help the effort to put the law on the 2012 ballot. The Baltimore County Republican said the group is "on track" to come up with the 18,500 signatures needed for an initial deadline at the end of the month.
The bill is scheduled to take effect July 1. But if the petition drive is successful, the measure would be put on hold until the November election.
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