Children who were brought to the United States by their illegal-immigrant parents are celebrating in Maryland this week after final tallies show that the state’s DREAM Act, which makes it easier for them to pursue higher education in the state, was approved by voters this Tuesday. The act will allow students who lack proper immigration credentials but who graduated high school in the state to take advantage of some tuition breaks to make attending college more affordable.
The Maryland Dream Act will help anywhere from hundreds to thousands of students access higher education in the state over the next several years. With the projected passage of the initiative, Maryland joins 13 other states that offer some form of tuition equity for undocumented students.
The Dream Act brought together a group of supporters not often found on the same side of a political question. Campaigning for its passage were many state unions along with the Catholic Church and an immigrant advocacy group CASA de Maryland. They argued that offering broader access to higher education for children who were brought here by their parents when very young would allow them to become fully contributing members of Maryland society — something that would benefit the state both socially and economically in the long run.
Although nothing was taken for granted, early returns strongly signaled that Maryland voters were going to approve the Dream Act. Ballots cast prior to the election day broke in favor of the act by nearly 2 to 1. Once the full returns were tabulated, the tuition breaks for the Dreamers were approved by an even wider margin.
“This is going to be a tremendous affirmation of the goodness of the people of our state,” O’Malley told students and their supporters at Arcos Restaurant before the final results were in. “The people of our state who understand that we are all in this together. That we are one.”
The estimates put the cost of implementing the act at about $3.5 million a year, but many are predicting that this sum will be easily made up by the contributions made by graduates who take advantage of the scholarships. People with a college degree enjoy a substantial earning advantage over those who not, and therefore bring more revenues to state coffers via taxes and spending.
Opponents, who gathered thousands of signatures to petition the law to referendum, argued the state should not be creating programs that benefit students who shouldn’t be here. They say the tuition benefit would help draw more illegal immigrants to Maryland, where they would use costly services.
At Eutaw-Marshburn Elementary School in Baltimore’s Bolton Hill, Donald Dukes and his daughter Kelly disagreed about the Dream Act.
“I believe everyone has a right to an education,” Kelly said.
“As long as they’re legal,” her father interjected. “We need to have people following the laws.”