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Area residents voice opinions on tuition/immigrant ballot question

October 22, 2012|By CALEB CALHOUN | caleb.calhoun@herald-mail.com
  • Iretha McCullough, Jeff Jones and Zandria Lansdowne
Iretha McCullough, Jeff Jones and Zandria Lansdowne

Maryland voters have been locked in debates in advance of the Nov. 6 General Election, with disagreements ranging from the best candidate for the Oval Office to same-sex marriage, to gambling. Also on the ballot is Question 4, a referendum allowing illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition to attend in-state public universities.

“The taxpayers should not have to subsidize illegal immigrants to get in-state tuition,” Jeff Jones, 39, of Williamsport said. “American citizens that live in West Virginia and Pennsylvania can’t get in-state tuition, and they could live 20 miles away.”

Rob Fairall, 45, of Hagerstown, said he supports the referendum.

“Everybody deserves a fair chance, and the whole United States started off with immigrants,” he said. “If the government’s getting a share of their money, they should give something back to them.”

The referendum, if approved, would allow illegal immigrants in Maryland to pay in-state tuition rates at community colleges if they can prove that they attended high schools in Maryland for at least three years, graduated from a Maryland high school, and they or their legal guardians filed state taxes. They could then pay in-state tuition rates at a four-year college upon receiving an associate degree or fulfilling 60 credit hours.

Legislation was passed in 2011 to approve the Dream Act, but opponents gathered enough signatures for a petition to put it on the ballot as a referendum.

Delores Martinez, 52, of Hagerstown said that she supports the measure because of the requirements that come with it.

“If they pay taxes, of course they should be allowed to pay in-state tuition for college,” she said. “They’re putting into the system, so I don’t see any harm in it.”

Iretha McCullough, 44, of Hagerstown, said that she does not support the referendum and believes the state needs to prioritize its problems.

“I can’t see the value of providing additional education assistance to illegal immigrants, and we aren’t taking care of the children that are here in the (state) of Maryland or in this country,” she said. “Until we are able to be in a position where we help our own first, then we have no business going out and trying to help others.”

McCullough added, though, that she understands many children who were brought to the United States illegally are affected by the law.

“It’s not the children’s fault, it’s the parents’ fault, and until the children become adults, it’s still the parents’ responsibilities,” she said. “Therefore the child shouldn’t reap the benefit of the parent’s illegal act.”

Hagerstown resident Zandria Lansdowne, 41, said she opposes the measure for similar reasons.

“We need to take care of the children that were born here and that worked hard to get where they are so they can be able to go to college and not have to worry about how they’re going to pay for it,” she said. “If you do something illegal your family and children shouldn’t be able to benefit from it.”

Nelson Perez, 50, is from Silver Spring, Md., but is looking to become a landlord in Hagerstown and is an immigrant who was brought to the United States from Spain when he was 4 years old. He said he supports the measure because many of the illegal immigrants have become a part of the culture of the United States.

“This is their country, and this is all many of them know,” he said. “They’ve adopted this place as their home so they should be able to have all the rights that come with it.”

The measure, according to the Maryland State Board of Elections website, also states that honorably discharged veterans will have more time to submit documents to be exempt from out-of-state tuition rates at community or four-year colleges.

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