During my time representing you in Annapolis, I’ve made my views clear on issues of major statewide policy: Citizens should have their say before sweeping decisions are made by a powerful few in our state’s House and Senate.
As many of you are painfully aware, Maryland lawmakers narrowly passed a bill late in the 2011 legislative session that would give college tuition breaks to undocumented immigrants, not just legal state residents. The legislation gained steam throughout the General Assembly, and despite vocal opposition from Democrats and Republicans alike, the measure passed by seven votes in the Senate, and just 11 votes in the House of Delegates.
Just as I supported voter referendums from the contentious gambling issue lawmakers grappled with for so long, I supported the effort to collect enough petition signatures in the coming weeks for the DREAM Act, as the bill is called, to be on the 2012 ballot. That way, 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 crises in state and national history.
And no matter how supporters of the DREAM Act spin it, these millions of dollars in college tuition would go to men and women who reside in our state illegally. There’s no way around that. This year in Annapolis, a substantial number of constituents—and others who do not live in our district—called my office to voice their strong opposition to this measure.
Advocates of putting the DREAM Act on next year’s ballot face an uphill battle, but one I know we can win. A website, mdpetitions.com, is at the forefront of the effort to create a ballot measure for 2012. According to the site, more than 55,000 signatures are needed by the end of June or there’s no way to fight back against this expensive and nonsensical legislation.
I urge you to visit the site today, and tell friends, family and co-workers to follow suit. Sign your name to the worthwhile cause, and if you have the means or extra time, volunteer to collect signatures in your neighborhood, or donate to help DREAM Act opponents follow through and get the necessary number of signatures to keep the effort moving forward until enough signatures are collected.
The bill being fought allows illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition at our community colleges. If they earn 60 credits from the college, they become eligible for exemption from paying nonresident (out-of-state) tuition at a public higher education institution in Maryland.
I question why students from New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and other states who chose to attend Maryland colleges are required to pay out-of-state tuition and undocumented immigrants are not. This does not make sense.
Four-year colleges have a limited number of entrance slots for aspiring out- of-state and in-state residents. To allow for illegal immigrants to attend one of our universities or colleges, officials will reduce the number of out-of-state slots allowed to each school. The cost to the state and universities, at this time, is unknown. Millions of dollars could be put on the backs of hardworking taxpayers and colleges if this legislation is not stopped.
Besides the valid arguments against providing in-state tuition to illegal immigrants, there is a laundry list of reasons to sign the petition. In-state tuition at the University of Maryland College Park campus is about $8,400 annually, while out-of-state students pay more than $24,000 a year. Simple math shows you that there is a $16,000 difference that will be subsidized by Maryland taxpayers at a time of slow but steady economic recovery.
Many of our state’s colleges and universities are filled to capacity with students, as enrollment has spiked during our country’s economic struggles. Working adults are flocking back to the classroom to boost their resumes while they’re unemployed or underemployed. Lecture hall seats should be available to them—legal residents—rather than undocumented men and women.
Opposition to the DREAM Act won’t go away, no matter how much supporters of the law hope it will. We’re here to say—both Democrats and Republicans who support common sense policies—but without your help, and your signature at mdpetitions.com, the DREAM Act won’t make its way to the 2012 ballot.
You deserve the final say on this.