Hood senior Maria Smith student teaches in Frederick County schools and supports the education of illegal immigrants
in Maryland including efforts such as Senate Bill 167.


























By: Ashley Darling

A high school senior ponders his next step after graduation.  Commonly, questions like “What will my career be?” and “Will I go to college?” arise.  However, more frequently for students who do choose to attend college, the questions become “Will I be able to afford this college?” opposed to “What college will offer me the best opportunity?” 

With those questions in mind, consider yourself a Maryland high school graduate.  It is not uncommon for students to take advantage of resident tuition.  However, if you are an illegal immigrant who has graduated from a Maryland public school your education may end with your high school diploma.  Illegal immigrants in Maryland are currently expected to pay non-resident tuition.  Unlike Maryland, some states even deny illegal immigrants entrance into their higher educations. 

The Maryland Dream Act or Senate Bill 167 was supposed to go in effect July 8 and allow illegal immigrants that are Maryland high school graduates and whose parents pay Maryland state taxes to attend community colleges at the resident tuition rate. Instead, leading opposition groups have petitioned the bill and have suspended its implementation until the public votes on it in November 2012 during the gubernatorial election.

With most colleges and universities offering a considerable discount to in-state applicants, frugal individuals can hardly look elsewhere. Some high school seniors, especially those who are illegal immigrants, are unable to pay those non-resident rates and are limited in their options.  For instance, the University of Maryland’s tuition for state residents is $8,655 per year.  However, the non-resident’s tuition more than triples the resident tuition at $26,026.

What is the Dream Act?

The Maryland Dream Act is based on the initiative of President Obama’s national Dream Act.  The basic outline of President Obama’s mission is to provide a venue for young individuals to legally immigrate and flourish in our country.  However, Congress has not approved the act and President Obama believes it would be a disservice to the democratic system to use executive action to implement his plans.

Maryland’s Dream Act or Senate Bill 167 would, more specifically, extend the time period for honorably discharged veterans to acquire evidence in order to receive a certain tuition rate.  The more controversial portion of the bill is the clause that allows illegal immigrants whose parents pay taxes to receive the resident tuition rate at community colleges for the first two years and then, following successful completion, resident tuition at a four-year institution. 

Proponents of the Dream Act

The support for the Maryland Dream Act has been led mostly by the organization CASA de Maryland.  CASA’s goal is to “support immigrants and low-income people in Maryland and adjacent communities,” and provide political education to the Latino community, primarily according to their mission statement.  They have made many strides in educating Maryland citizens about the issue and lobbying for the bill’s implementation. 

Along with the organization, Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown supports the initiative as well. 
“Allowing children of undocumented immigrants who have attended and graduated from Maryland high schools to access an affordable college education will help them give back, both in taxes from higher paying jobs and through service to their community,” said Brown.

The proponents of Maryland Dream Act dislike the idea of denying any individual an opportunity at education.

Hood College Senior Maria Smith says, “The Dream Act allows citizens to become integrated into American society, to earn an education, work towards legal status and/or citizenship, and to pay taxes.”

Smith says that it is not the student’s fault in the parents choosing to illegally immigrate to this country and therefore they should not be penalized or denied education. 

“As a student teacher, I work daily with students who were born in other countries,” says Smith. “Some may be here legally, others may not be, but I would never support denying the opportunity for in-state tuition to a higher education institution for a high-achieving student that has lived in the state for several years simply because they were brought into this country by his or her parents.”

Some students like Hood junior Calvin Burton agree with the initiative but believe that if illegal immigrants are granted the same opportunity as legal resident students, they should also have access to other forms of aid.

“I feel like it is fair to offer this opportunity to illegal immigrants but hope that other means of financial aid, like military service, may also be an option for them as well,” says Burton.

The Opposition facing the Dream Act

The opposition facing the bill has actively worked to gain support and discontinue, if not delay, the implementation of the Maryland Dream Act.  The opposition needed 56,000 signatures, 3 percent of the votes cast in the last election of governor, in order to petition the bill.  According to the Federation for American Immigration Reform, they were able to obtain more than 130,000 signatures. Obviously, Maryland citizens consider this issue a point of contention.

The leading local opposition group Help Save Maryland, headed by Brad Botwin, is a grass-root, citizen organization that examines the issue of illegal immigration in Maryland and its effect on the legal, resident population. 

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