Dream Act continues a long Maryland tradition of welcoming immigrants

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On Election Day, voters will have the opportunity to continue the state's long tradition of welcoming new Americans and valuing education by supporting the Maryland Dream Act at the polls.

A "For" vote on Question 4 will affirm the law signed by Gov. Martin O'Malley that provides in-state tuition to students who were brought to the U.S. at a young age, have been here for at least three years, graduate from high school in Maryland, and whose parents pay their taxes.

The students must attend a community college for two years before entering one of the state's public four-year colleges or universities.

Only a filibustering Senate prevented the passage of a Federal Dream Act in 2010, which would have granted permanent residency to people brought to the U.S. as young children, and who know no other country than this one.

Supporting the Maryland Dream Act will provide students the hope of earning a four-year degree, which will be beneficial not only for them, but for the state as a whole. In its report on the Dream Act, the Maryland Institute for Policy Analysis and Research found that the initial costs of the investment in education will be more than offset by increased tax revenues and lower incarceration costs from a more educated citizenry.

Recognizing that Maryland has one of the highest rates of immigrants with post-secondary degrees in the country, and the benefits are readily evident, a report by the Governor's Commission to Study the Impact of Immigrants in Maryland supported access to post-secondary education for resident immigrants, regardless of their legal status. The commission also found that people with more education are good for society because they earn more money and are more engaged in the community, and are better-informed workers, consumers and voters.

The argument that Dream Act students will take spots from incoming freshman at Maryland state universities is unfounded because the law requires such students to take 60 credit hours or graduate from a Maryland community college before transferring to a four-year institution. Since Maryland community colleges have open enrollment, no one will be denied admission as a result of the act.

By passing the Dream Act, Maryland would join 12 other states that have instituted similar laws. By contrast, states that have passed harsh laws targeting immigrant populations have created a climate of fear for immigrants, their families and their communities and have subsequently suffered massive economic losses as a result.

Nowhere is this more evident than Arizona, where the author of its immigration bill and speaker of the Arizona house was defeated in a special recall election this year. Local communities, school systems, and businesses in these states have rebelled against the legislatures for harming their economies and showing them in a negative light nationally and internationally.

As the nation begins to recognize that positive, comprehensive immigration solutions are needed, Maryland voters can follow in the state's long tradition of recognizing the importance of its immigrants to our economy and cultural live by supporting Question 4.

Mark J. Shmueli, Takoma Park

The writer, an immigration attorney, is a member of the Governor's Commission to Study the Impact of Immigrants in Maryland.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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