Update: Maryland DREAM Act Passes In House of Delegates18 Apr 2011
As we reported in this space at the end of March, the Maryland Senate approved legislation to provide in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants who were brought here as children, and studied at a Maryland high school for at least three years. (See Counter-Trend in State Immigration Legislation? MurthyBlog, 25.Mar.2011.) The Maryland House of Delegates has now followed suit, passing its own version of the DREAM Act bill in the waning hours of the 2011 legislative session.
According to the Baltimore Sun, the in-state tuition bill came close to triggering a filibuster by a Senate Republican who objected to a House amendment that would have softened the tax-compliance requirements of the original legislation, by allowing students “to sidestep the requirement if they could show that they had a ‘serious and substantial reason’ for failing to pay taxes – an illness, for example.” (See Lawmakers Approve Tuition Break for Illegal Immigrants, New Sales Tax on Alcohol, by Julie Bykowicz and Annie Linskey, The Baltimore Sun, 12.Apr.2011.) Democrats agreed to remove the amendment from the bill, allowing it to clear both chambers before adjournment sine die at midnight.
Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley – often touted as a potential aspirant for higher political office – has promised to sign the bill in the coming days. According to the Baltimore Sun, O’Malley has already signed into law a quarter of the 707 bills passed in the Maryland General Assembly this year, and has another signing ceremony slated for April 25. (See O’Malley Starts Signing the Bills, by Annie Linskey and Julie Bykowicz, The Baltimore Sun, 12.Apr.2011.)
It remains to be seen whether any other states will follow Maryland’s lead, bucking the trend in most state legislatures, which have largely followed Arizona’s example: taking an enforcement-only approach to illegal immigration. Although we do not condone illegal immigration, it seems reasonable and fair not to penalize people who were brought here as children, with no say in whether they came here or not. That being said, we are hopeful that federal lawmakers will finally bestir themselves to reform our immigration system at the national level, in an orderly, synoptic way – which would be preferable, by far, to the patchwork of new immigration laws being hastily stitched together in state legislatures across the country.