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Supporters of Tuition for Illegal Immigrants Bill Head To Court

The lawsuit seeks to overturn successful petition drive.

UPDATED(3:43 p.m.)—Supporters of a bill granting in-state tuition rates to some illegal immigrants filed a lawsuit Monday seeking to overturn an effort to put the issue on the 2012 ballot.

Casa De Maryland, in a statement released this morning, said the lawsuit was based on "illegalities discovered in the signatures submitted to and incorrectly validated by the Board as well as the grounds for relief."

In all, opponents of the bill collected 132,071 signatures. The Maryland State Board of Elections certified that about 83 percent of those signatures—108,923— were valid.

The bill was to have gone into effect on July 1 but is now on hold because of the referendum.

Representatives of Casa De Maryland did not return calls from a reporter seeking comment.

In a statement on its website, the group said the alleges that "more than 50,000 of the signatures turned in by petition sponsors and found valid by the Board were actually invalid under Maryland law.  The majority of those invalid signatures were purportedly of voters whose information was not filled out by the voter herself, as required by law, but was instead filled out by a computer program operated by the petition sponsors—a violation of Maryland law."

The statement went on to say that several thousand additional signatures "appeared on petition forms that did not contain either a summary of the text of the law—another plain violation of Maryland law that indicates the voters had no way of knowing what they were actually signing.  Tens of thousands of other signatures that were counted as valid violated other clear requirements of the Maryland election law."

The group further alleges that certifying the referendum violates the state constitution which "forbids referenda on appropriations measures precisely to prevent the type of disruption of government programs that has occurred because of the effort to petition the Maryland DREAM Act to referendum—in this case, disruption of the plans of students, including the two plaintiffs, who have worked hard in high school, and who have struggled, and saved to attend community college, and whose futures now depend on the in-state tuition exemption lawfully granted by the General Assembly," according to the statement.

The lawsuit was filed by Casa De Maryland, and supported by SEIU Local 1199 and the Maryland State Education Association.

Adam Mendelson, a spokesman for the teachers association, said the group is supporting the lawsuit because it supported the bill when it was before the General Assembly earlier this year.

The law firms of Arnold & Porter LLP and Sandler, Reiff, Young & Lamb, P.C. are representing the organization free of charge.

Del. Pat McDonough, a Middle River Republican and outspoken opponent of the tuition bill, said the lawsuit was meaningless.

"It's a desperation move," McDonough said. "Obviously it doesn't have much merit since the ACLU doesn't want to participate."

The challenge to the referendum effort was not unexpected.

In June, the American Civil Liberties Union sent a letter to the Maryland State Board of Elections used by opponents of the bill.

"Every system in the country is subject to fraud," McDonough said of the ACLU complaint and the lawsuit. "You can't just say something is subject to fraud. You must prove that fraud occurred and you have to prove that it has an impact on the outcome [of the referendum drive]. I don't think that's possible."

Keep up with what's happening in Baltimore County politics by following Bryan P. Sears on his Inside Politics and on Twitter and Facebook.

The name of a state teachers association spokesman has been corrected in this article.

Paul Amirault January 18, 2012 at 04:11 PM
Actually Hendo,it is not desperation, it simply is less expensive for the courts to decide then to have a referendum fight. It is either the rule of law or not as to whether this can get on the ballot. If the pro forces win in court it won be on the ballot. if the anti forces win in court, it will be on the ballot. If we/you don't like that decision it will take a constiutional amendment to overturn that decision. Intrigue. If on the ballot that may increase the normal dismal turnout of voters in Maryland at the ballot box.
Paul Amirault January 18, 2012 at 04:20 PM
Lorna and Lindsay, I won't try to defend RA or Buzz, they are both adults and can fight their own battles. I wish the rhetoric was toned down however. My problem is this, even if you accept that the anti Dream Act position that this will "cost" Marylanders $3.5 million per year 3 years into the future. Let me concede to you I don't accept that argument as valid. I wonder where is everybody's indignation at the US Corporations that keep their profits overseas to avoid paying income taxes for the very benefits the rest of us provide. We provide the Treasure and our soldiers provide their lives for defense of the USA while our corporation believe it is in their economic interests to keep profits overseas.The DREAM Act would be a a grain in the sand at Ocean City compared the Trillion of dollars kept overseas in the name of the almighty "prophet" (pun intended). Oil and gas subsidies, farm subsidies, wealthy paying 15% in taxes (like Romney acknowledged) You want to talk about givieaways, these dwarf the DREAM Act.
Mike Lurz January 18, 2012 at 04:25 PM
Why not stop the bleeding from both sides?.. the idea that this is good because the other guy is more bad does not hold water...The state has to stop spending money that the taxpayers don't have..PERIOD!
Paul Amirault January 18, 2012 at 04:50 PM
Mike, we can agree to disagree as to whether or not the DREAM Act costs MD taxpayers money. But your other question seeks an interesting answer. What would it take to force our corporations to return their profits to the US and pay their taxes like the rest of us? An Act of Congress. Who is in the pockets of Congress and contributing to their campaigns? Who is now allowed to spend unlimiited amounts of money on Super PACs to support their candidate? There is your answer.
Gary Koloski January 18, 2012 at 11:08 PM
Gee, what timing. Now the Gov wants more of MY hard-earned tax money to pay for it all, ain't he great!!! Many of you who voted for him really can surely experience what idiotic timing this is, Vote Democrat again why don't ya!!

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