Our VoiceCulture

Help Save Maryland: FAIR’s Minions Clearly Lack “Common Sense”

Brian Schultz • Jul 07, 2011

It’s disputed whether PT Barnum actually said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

Barnum and most of his contemporaries died in the 19th Century, but this powerful message resonates well into the 21st.

Take, for example, the anti-immigrant organization Help Save Maryland (HSM), a state contact group for the nation’s largest body of immigration restrictionists, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). FAIR was founded by keystone white-nationalist John Tanton, and its personnel have long maintained close ties with both the Social Contract Press, whose editor in chief, Wayne Lutton, is a renowned xenophobe and homophobe, and the openly white nationalist website VDARE.com.

But HSM seems quite reluctant to talk about those ties.

Instead, it promotes itself as an “organization dedicated to providing facts regarding illegal aliens who live and/or work in Maryland.” Its most recent project is a petition campaign to block the implementation of SB 167, a recently passed statute that allows undocumented students to pay in-state tuition rates at community colleges. Having received the needed signatures, the issue will now ride on a forthcoming referendum.

HSM claims to have based their protest on non-partisan reasoning that emphasizes state-wide shortages and taxpayer burdens—stuff that, supposedly, everyone can agree on. The campaign’s support structure is Washington County delegate Neil Parrott, who echoed this purportedly universal appeal in an interview by emphasizing the following:

“People just want to see bills that represent their values and are full of common sense.”

Now, I don’t consider myself a guardian of “common sense,” but it seems to me that Mr. Parrott isn’t really exercising it. In fact, his claim seems to stumble tepidly into some pretty counter-intuitive ideological posturing—an accusation the far-right often levels against those who stand up for immigrants.

“In-state tuition” generally means just that—tuition for those who reside within a given state. And if an undocumented student has spent three years in a Maryland high school, as the bill requires, common sense dictates this qualifies that student as a resident within that state.

HSM’s version of “common sense” more resembles a common formula of rhetoric deployed by anti-immigrant bigots; here’s one they love to employ that never makes any sense—in-state tuition is a public service paid for by the tax payers, therefore undocumented immigrants are not entitled to it.

This assumes, first, that undocumented immigrants don’t pay taxes, a claim that has been forcefully dismissed, as undocumented immigrants are estimated to have paid $11.2 billion in taxes last year; second, it fails to mention that the bill itself actually requires students or parents to provide a valid tax return in order to qualify for the in-state rate.

HSM’s rationale only pits taxpayer against taxpayer—while everyone pays for public services, HSM puts forth that only some are entitled to access them, and that their access is under imminent threat.

This is “common sense?”

Help Save Maryland is neither protecting “taxpayers” nor looking after the interest of the people of Maryland, as Mr. Parrott so badly wants us to believe. Rather, HSM is dividing civilization into the included and the excluded, the deserving and the undeserving, just as FAIR desires.

With this in mind, one wonders how HSM could have garnered nearly 100,000 signatures to bolster its agenda—that is, unless they consciously concealed the prejudiced aspects of their project from the public.

But you know what they say: there’s a sucker born every minute.

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