Immigration is increasingly becoming the subject of debate in our neighborhoods, families, parishes – and here too in the Maryland General Assembly, where a number of immigration-related bills have been introduced this session. Instead of passing judgment and condemning hard-working people who seek the American dream for themselves and their families, the Maryland Catholic Conference calls on legislators to consider the legislation before them through the eyes of a welcoming America offering support and comfort to our neighbors, co-workers, schoolmates and parishioners.
The Maryland Catholic Conference opposes legislation that unfairly targets immigrants and their families, such as HB 276, which would require all law enforcement agencies in Maryland to take on federal immigration enforcement responsibilities. Especially during this difficult budgetary climate when so many worthy programs are being eliminated or cut due to budget constraints, this bill would unnecessarily impose increased costs to our local communities. In addition, this bill would undermine law enforcement relationships with immigrant communities while serving only to push immigrants further into the shadows causing a chilling effect on crime victims and witnesses.
The Conference also is opposed to SB 585 and HB 28, which would require people to prove their lawful residency before receiving benefits. This legislation is largely superfluous; however it also creates serious hurdles for citizens and legal residents, such as the fifty percent of homeless do not have photo identification.
On the positive side, legislation has been introduced that will help to lift up all people so that together we can make America stronger and healthier for future generations. The Conference supports SB 167, which would extend in-state tuition rates to Maryland high school graduates who are academically-eligible and whose parent or guardian has paid Maryland income taxes. In making these students eligible for in-state tuition, the bill would make college education possible for a new generation of immigrant Marylanders. Maryland is their reality – their past, present and, they hope, their future. By making a college education affordable, this bill would give young people one of America’s most prized gifts – opportunity.
Maryland Catholic Conference advocates for the Church's public policy positions before the Maryland General Assembly and other civil officials. The Conference represents all three dioceses with territory in the state – the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Archdiocese of Washington, and the Diocese of Wilmington.