By Joe Guzzardi
July 27, 2011
The case of the People versus the Maryland Dream Act proves just how fed up Americans are with illegal immigration.
While not yet an actual court case, the showdown pits the ultra-liberal Maryland headed by Governor Martin O’Malley, aided by immigration advocates CASA de Maryland and abetted by the American Civil Liberties Union against fed up grassroots taxpayers determined to derail the state’s effort to approve instate college tuition fees to aliens. The cost differential for students is substantial: In-state tuition and fees at the University of Maryland run $8,655 annually but for out-of-state residents they rise to $26,026.
In May, Maryland’s general assembly barely passed a bill similar in scope to the national DREAM Act which Congress has failed to pass a dozen times during the last decade, most recently in last year’s lame duck session. The Maryland law was scheduled to take effect on July 1.
An uproar immediately followed. Opponents including Help Save Maryland, a local organization that fights illegal immigration, announced that they would launch a referendum drive to force the DREAM Act onto the November 2012 ballot.
They were hugely successful. Although petitioners needed only 55, 736 signatures, the Maryland State Board of Elections validated nearly 110,000. One volunteer told me that illegal immigration is such a hot button issue that Maryland residents from all demographic groups-—old, young, black, white, Republican and Democrat—”registered disgust” at the idea of subsidizing aliens’ university tuition during this period of acute joblessness and deep state budget deficits.
Of the first 47,000 who signed the petition, 30 percent were Democrats and 11 percent unaffiliated, according to the official registrar’s data.
Many signatories expressed dismay at legislation that offers discounts to illegal immigrants when their own children cannot afford the privilege of a university education.
Organizers’ spent only $14,000 in their signature gathering effort. They are about to be hugely outgunned by pro-illegal immigration allies including the ACLU, the aforementioned Casa de Maryland, the Roman Catholic Church, and other Washington D.C.-based lobbyists like the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund and the National Council of La Raza. All vow to keep the DREAM Act off the ballot—and for good reason since it will probably be defeated.
Gustavo Torrez, Casa de Maryland’s Executive Director, estimates that he’ll be able to raise $3-$5 million to challenge the referendum. And Joseph Sandler, an expert election lawyer hired by Torres, will argue that anti-DREAM Act petitioners used misleading information about the bill’s intent to unfairly influence signatories.
In Maryland, public referendums are rare. The last one occurred 20 years ago. But the highly publicized national debate about illegal immigration, amnesty and the DREAM Act paved the way for the 110,000 signatures.
In the end, DREAM Act legislation should be a ballot issue and not determined in a smoke-filled room. Let voters decide whether they should subsidize illegal immigrants’ college educations.
Although several states offer instate tuition to illegal immigrants, Maryland will be the first case where the people have the final word.
Joe Guzzardi, a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow has been writing syndicated editorials about immigration and other social issues since 1986. Contact him at [email protected].