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Ehrlich Pushes for a Less Immigrant-Friendly Maryland

The race for Maryland governor is becoming increasingly focused on immigration as Republican candidate Robert Ehrlich, a former governor, criticized Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) Tuesday for loopholes in the state’s policies toward illegal immigrants. Maryland has generally been among the friendlier states toward immigrants, although lawmakers have tightened restrictions in the past several years. What would an Ehrlich-run state look like, then, for immigrant rights?

The state’s policies already seem to be moving away from official inclusion of illegal immigrants. The state once issued driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants if they were otherwise eligible, but began to phase out licenses for undocumented immigrants in 2009 under O’Malley. State lawmakers have also considered other immigrant-friendly policies: The state legislature debated, but did not approve, giving in-state tuition to undocumented students who attended high school in the state.

Ehrlich said he would “fight to close loopholes” in the law restricting driver’s licenses to legal residents, and that he would also “oppose giving discounted, in-state tuition rates to illegal immigrants at the expense of Maryland students.” He has been criticized by Latino groups for his statements on “multiculturalism,” which he called “bunk” and “damaging to society.”

Six Maryland cities — Takoma Park, Barnesville, Somerset, Martin’s Addition, Chevy Chase Section 3 and Garrett Park — allow any resident to vote, regardless of whether or not they are a citizen. These cities are the only in the country that allow full voting rights in municipal elections to non-citizens, although Portland, Maine, voters will decide next week whether to enact a similar measure to allow legal immigrants to vote in city elections.

The state of Maryland also gives funding to Casa de Maryland, a immigrant rights organization that has drawn criticism for its guides for children about dealing with immigration enforcement.

Ehrlich said Tuesday he opposed giving funding to the group unless they stopped printing literature he said was aimed at subverting immigration law. “I’m not interested in cutting them off if they do the right thing,” he said.

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