Sunday, December 17, 2006

County Times - Southern Maryland:Maryland Dems Could Change State Immigration Policy Advocates for illegal immigrants are optimistic that immigration law will favor them now that a Democrat is in the governor's office with a compatible General Assembly. Although incoming Gov. Martin O'Malley's legislative agenda is still in development, many of the items on his oft-mentioned 10-point plan for government, like making health care and education more affordable, apply to immigrants no matter their legal status. Outgoing Gov. Robert Ehrlich was no friend to immigrants. Ehrlich vetoed a 2003 bill to give in-state tuition to illegal immigrants who graduated from Maryland high schools and who were applying for legalization. Last year, he cut the state health care budget to leave thousands of legal immigrant children and pregnant women without benefits. And, in one of his last acts as governor, Ehrlich has indicated that he will tighten regulations to make it harder for illegal immigrants to get driver's licenses, said Sen. Paul Pinsky, D-Prince George's, who heads the committee that reviews such regulations. With a changing of the guard, goals like increasing funding for adult education and ensuring that immigrants can get health care, in-state college tuition and driver's licenses regardless of legal status could be advanced, said Kim Propeack, community organizing director of immigrant-rights group CASA de Maryland.