Maryland advocates say the state could only benefit if federal immigration reform passes, because it would allow undocumented workers to become more productive.
“There’s agreement something needs to be done, and they’re hammering out an agreement that is satisfactory to all and what it means to Maryland is a lot of people will come from out of the shadows and begin to contribute to our state,” said Gilberto de Jesus, vice president of the Maryland Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
A bipartisan U.S. Senate proposal would allow undocumented immigrants to obtain paperwork to have legal status in the country.
Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez, chairwoman of the General Assembly’s New American Caucus, which is made up of foreign-born delegates and senators or the children or grandchildren of immigrants, said she was “delighted” comprehensive reforms finally were being discussed in Congress.
Gutierrez (D-Dist. 18) of Chevy Chase said she did not think reform passage would change the state’s demographics, but it would allow more people to be able to work and have their employment situations be more stable.
“We’ll have a much healthier work environment. We know many companies and corporations depend on immigrant labor and it’s just been an untenable situation,” she said.
Still, not everyone agreed that national immigration reform will be beneficial.
A director of the organization Help Save Maryland called the discussed immigration reform proposals a potentially bad move for the state and nation, because not enough is being done to secure the nation’s borders.
“Am I disappointed? Yes,” said Brad Botwin, director of Help Save Maryland, which opposes illegal immigration and unsuccessfully campaigned to prevent passage of the state’s Dream Act to allow in-state tuition rates for the children of undocumented immigrants. “This isn’t a compromise, it’s a wholesale retreat,” he said of Washington’s efforts.
If immigration reform passes as currently being pushed by the senators, schools will need to have even more portable classrooms to keep up with enrollment increases, Botwin said.
Other social services and hospitals also will face additional strains because more illegal immigrants will be using them, he said.
But de Jesus disagreed that the immigrants would be more of a burden than contributors to the state.
“What it means to Maryland is we’re going to see a full-blown willingness of people who will roll up their sleeves, invest in our state and make a difference,” he said.