Question 4: a “dream” to some, a nightmare to others
Wednesday, 31 October 2012 11:48
by Bill Gates

    Supporters of referendum Question 4, the “Dream Act,” say it will provide a fair access to education for all Maryland residents.
    Opponents of the bill say it will encourage illegal immigrants to flock to Maryland and create a financial burden the state can’t afford.
    Senate Bill 167 was passed by the Maryland General Assembly during the 2011 Legislative session and was immediately subjected to a petition drive which gathered enough signatures to put the bill on the ballot.
    The members of the 6th District delegation, Sen. Norman R. Stone and delegates John Olszewski Jr., Joseph “Sonny” Minnick and Michael Weir Jr., all voted against the bill.
Under the legislation, illegal immigrants in Maryland would be allowed to attend state colleges while paying in-state tuition if they meet certain requirements.
    To qualify, students must have attended a Maryland high school for three years, and they or their parents must have filed state income tax forms for three years prior to entering college and continuing filing state tax forms while in college.
    They must also attend a community college for two years or 60 credits before applying to a four-year college and becoming eligible to pay in-state tuition.
    On the state ballot, voting “For the Referred Law” will mean support of the “Dream Act” and in-state tuition for illegal immigrants, while voting “Against the Referred Law” will help defeat it.
    “Voting for Question 4 to uphold the Dream Act is both right and fair,” said Kristin Ford, communications director for Educating Maryland Kids, a coalition of organizations working to defend the Dream Act.
    “This law is about Maryland kids whose families pay Maryland taxes and who should pay in-state tuition,” Ford said. “These young people grew up in Maryland, worked hard in school and graduated from a Maryland high school.
    “They love our state and just want a chance to give back. Investing in their futures means they’ll earn more, pay more taxes and grow our economy.”
    Del. Pat McDonough, a 7th District Republican who helped spearhead the petition effort, said the state can’t afford it.
    According to McDonough, the Dream Act would cost the state more than it has estimated: about $100 million annually within four years.
    And, since Dream Act students will be considered out-of-state students for purposes of admission to Maryland four-year colleges (so as to not take spots away from legitimate Maryland residents),  the state will lose money it would have received from out-of-state students paying the out-of-state tuition rate.
    McDonough pointed out that illegal immigrants who receive degrees through the Dream Act would not pay more taxes and help grow the state economy, because employing a person who is not a legal resident of the United States is currently a felony under the federal Immigration Act.
    “Maryland has more than 400,000 illegal aliens costing taxpayers $2 billion annually,” McDonough has said. “The passage of the Dream Act will make Maryland more appealing and attract new illegal aliens, costing taxpayers even larger amounts of money.”
    Ford counters by saying  that, under the new deferred action policy passed by President Barack Obama, illegal immigrants who graduate college will be eligible for renewable work permits.
    The difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition is substantial.
    For the University of Maryland at College Park, in-state tuition is $4,454.46 per semester, while non-resident students pay $13,643.96.
    At Towson University, state residents pay $2,830 in tuition while non-residents pay $8,641.
    Ford points out students still must get accepted to college and won’t be eligible for state or federal financial aid.
    “These students’ families have paid taxes like everyone else and this law simply makes sure all taxpayers in Maryland are able to pay in-state tuition,” Ford said.
    “A recent study estimated 435 students would enroll in college thanks to the Maryland Dream Act, so we’re talking about a very small group of talented, hard-working students.”
    The state can’t afford it, McDonough counters.
    “The in-state tuition subsidy is a hidden tax increase for Maryland citizens and an unfair displacement of Maryland students,” he wrote in a statement.
    Minnick said he supports the petition drive and putting the Dream Act to referendum so “voters across the state can say yes or no to a law that would cost Maryland millions just as we’re recovering from one of the worst economic crisis in state and national history.
    “And no matter how supporters of the Dream Act spin it, those millions of dollars would go to men and women who reside in our state illegally.”
    Ford counters that the people in question are students brought to Maryland by their parents and who have grown up in the state.
    “These young people came to this country through no choice of their own,” she said. “Since coming here, they’ve excelled in school and contributed to the community. Ensuring they have affordable access to higher education is a wise investment for our state.”