The 62-year-old Wheaton barber had earned a law degree in his native Thailand and waited eight years for a visa so he could move to the United States and begin a new life.
When he heard this year about the Maryland Dream Act, which would grant in-state college tuition discounts to illegal immigrants, he was outraged.
“I did the full legal process,” Anuchit Washirapunya, who is deaf and cannot speak English, wrote on a notepad as he hunched in his barber’s chair. “The illegal students have no right to work or stay here.”
Until recently, Maryland’s legal and political battle over in-state tuition has been seen as pitting young illegal immigrants against native residents. But in the past few months, a petition drive by opponents of the measure has attracted a small but growing number of legal immigrants, who say that they, too, are being cheated.
The issue of what to do about the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States has roiled Republican presidential debates. In recent years, it has spawned national movements that advocate a range of solutions, including forcing all illegal immigrants to return home and granting them all legal amnesty.