By Bradley Olson
The first of several long-awaited bills seeking to find a state solution to illegal immigration got a hearing yesterday in the Senate, although lawmakers sidestepped any lengthy discussion on the issue.
Fresh off his loss to colleague Andy Harris in the Republican primary for Maryland's 1st Congressional District, Sen. E.J. Pipkin asked members of the Budget and Taxation committee to pass his proposal for a task force to study the costs of illegal immigration to the state.
Pipkin said the bill would create a 10-person task force drawn from the General Assembly, the governor's Cabinet, the attorney general's office and businesses.
He said he has been unable to find out how much illegal immigrants cost the state annually for health care treatment because Cabinet secretaries have told him for the past six years that they did not track that information.
Three advocates opposed the bill, instead favoring legislation sponsored by Sen. Richard Madaleno. The Montgomery County Democrat proposes studying immigration statewide, legal and illegal, and analyzing the costs of illegal immigrants and how much they pay in taxes.
They said Pipkin's bill was too vague and did not provide a clear enough definition of "illegal aliens" - a contention that was met with skepticism by Senate Minority Leader David R. Brinkley, a Carroll and Frederick County Republican who sits on the committee.
"Here's something that says we're trying to find the facts, yet you don't want the facts?" he asked, noting that similar objections to the way "illegal alien" is defined do not come up during discussions of whether such immigrants should be eligible for in-state tuition.
"We know what he's trying to get at, you know what he's trying to get at," Brinkley said.
All three answered that Madaleno's proposal would be better suited for the task.
"It's just a much more developed examination," said Kim Propeack, director of community organizing and political action for CASA of Maryland, an advocacy group for immigrants.