Maryland bills take shots at Dream Act

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Local,Maryland,Andy Brownfield

ANNAPOLIS - Bills heard before a House panel on Wednesday would require colleges in the University System of Maryland to report how many illegal immigrants attended each year and to cap the number of out-of-state students allowed at state schools.

Sponsor Del. Neil Parrott, R-Washington County, said the bills were intended to bring some accountability to the Maryland Dream Act, which was approved by voters in November and grants in-state tuition to some illegal immigrants living in Maryland.

His first bill would require colleges in the university system to report annually how many students enrolled were in the country illegally, and how many of them paid in-state or out-of-state tuition.

"When we debated the Dream Act last year, there was no data at all to tell us how many illegal aliens were at the colleges we were debating about," Parrott said.

His other measure would cap the number of out-of-state students admitted into the system at 20 percent of the student body. Because illegal immigrants are not legal residents of Maryland, they will be considered out-of-state students paying in-state tuition. The bill would limit how many illegal immigrants could attend state colleges.

The Maryland Dream Act allows illegal immigrants to receive state funds for higher education if they can prove they have attended a Maryland high school for three years and their parents have paid taxes.

The law doesn't require students to disclose whether they're in the country legally.

Some on the House Appropriations Committee questioned the purpose of collecting the immigration status of students.

"If we have this information, do we then turn them into [Immigration and Customs Enforcement]?" asked Del. John Bohanan Jr., D-St. Mary's County, to which Parrott said no.

"Policywise, I just don't see what this data would do," Bohanan said.

P.J. Hogan, the university system's chief lobbyist, said the system's Board of Regents currently caps the number of out-of-state students admitted at 30 percent of enrollment.

Hogan showed that only two schools of the 11 in the system had out-of-state enrollment of more than Parrott's recommended 20 percent cap. The average percentage of out-of-state students as part of total enrollment fell from 17.8 percent in 2009 to 17 percent in 2012.

abrownfield@washingtonexaminer.com

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