This past spring, the Maryland state legislature approved the Senate Bill 167, “Public Institutions of Higher Education – Tuition Rates – Exemptions.” The most significant provision of the new law is allowing illegal immigrants who have attended for three years and graduated from a Maryland high school the ability to pay in-state tuition. These students are also required to show that their parents have paid state income taxes. After fulfilling these requirements, they would be allowed to enroll into a community college, and after completing 60 credits in the community college, they would be able to transfer to a four-year college.
This law is the most recent in the series of attempts made by other states, including California, Texas, Illinois, and New York, in the past few years to implement the DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education of Alien Minors Act) into state tuition laws. The DREAM Act was first introduced in 2001 under the 107th Congress but it has yet to pass through both the Senate and the House. The federal DREAM Act proposes for undocumented immigrants to receive in-state tuition for public colleges of their state of residence and a way for these students to change their legal status after fulfilling residential and service requirements.
Opponents of the law argue that this law does not reflect the opinion of most Maryland residents and that it would place an unduly large fiscal burden on the state. State analysts have calculated that for a four-year degree, the state would take on $40,000 for each student. They also predict that hundreds of undocumented students would have applied for college under this new provision this summer if it had taken effect. They also argue that such laws would entice more illegal immigrants into the country and their state.
On the contrary, proponents of the DREAM act assert that because on average, college graduates earn incomes of at least 50% more than that of high school graduates, these undocumented students would give back to Maryland more than enough in taxes after they graduate. Moreover, in giving these illegal immigrants the opportunity to attend college with in-state tuition and to eventually change their legal status, the supporters of
the DREAM Act argue, these students will become an asset for the state and for
the United States.
The law was set to take effect on July 1, 2011 but has been delayed to a petition submitted by its opponents. The opponents need at least 55,736 signatures on the petition to suspend the law and put it on the bill for a statewide referendum vote in November 2010. Surpassing the minimum number, they have submitted over 130,000 signatures, 63,000 of which have been validated as of last Thursday, July 7. Many NGOs and other volunteers such as myself will be reviewing and determining validation on these in the evenings from 5:00-9:00PM.
Danielle Beach-Oswald is the current President and Managing Partner of Beach-Oswald Immigration Law Associates in Washington, DC. Ms. Beach utilizes her 19 years of experience in immigration law to help individuals immigrate to the United States for humanitarian reasons. Born in Brussels, Belgium, Ms. Beach has lived in England, Belgium, Italy and Ivory Coast and has traveled extensively to many countries. Ms. Beach advocates for clients from around the world who seek freedom from torture in their country, or who are victims of domestic violence and trafficking. She has also represented her clients at U.S. Consulates in Romania, China, Canada, Mexico, and several African countries. With her extensive experience in family-based and employment-based immigration law Ms. Beach not only assists her clients in obtaining a better standard of living in the United States, she also helps employers obtain professional visas, and petitions for family members. She also handles many complex naturalization issues. Ms. Beach has unique expertise representing clients in immigration matters pending before the Federal District Courts, Circuit Courts, Board of Immigration Appeals and Immigration Courts. She has won over 400 humanitarian cases in the United States. Her firm's website is www.boilapc.com.