BALTIMORE -- Some illegal immigrants will be eligible to pay in-state tuition at Maryland colleges and universities, after voters approved the Maryland Dream Act on Tuesday.
Marylanders voted to allow
illegal immigrants who attended high school in Maryland for three years and whose parents filed income taxes in the state to qualify for in-state rates. Qualifying students initially have to attend a community college, though they can transfer to a state university after two years. They are required to sign a statement expressing their intent to apply for legal permanent residency.
The win means "that hundreds of kids in the state ... will be able to transfer to the four-year school of their choice," said Kristin Ford, spokeswoman for Educating Maryland Kids, the campaign spearheading the fighting for the measure.
Many voters who supported the measure described it as being fair to immigrants.
"I'm a first-generation American, so I can understand the desire to get an education," said Baltimore resident Amita Desouza. "I was afforded that luxury, so I would like to have that available for all young people who are interested."
Gov. Martin O'Malley signed the bill into law in May 2011,
two months before opponents, led by state Del. Neil Parrott, R-Washington County, submitted to the state Board of Elections enough signatures to get the law on the ballot. Supporters of the law challenged in court Parrott's use of the website mdpetitions.com to collect the signatures, but the Court of Appeals rejected their argument a few months ago.
The measure is expected to cost state and local taxpayers several million dollars each for each new class that goes through the state's university system, according to a study produced last month by the Maryland Institute for Policy Analysis and Research at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. The federal government also will be responsible for about $50,000 a year for each class, creating a shared total cost for state, local and federal governments of nearly $7.5 million a year starting in 2016.
However, that study also found that these costs eventually will be offset by increases in sales and income taxes that result from the immigrants being better educated, holding better jobs and having more disposable income.
The Dream Act was one of seven statewide ballot questions Marylanders faced on Tuesday.
One of the ballot measures voters passed -- Question Three -- removes from office elected officials who commit a crime when they are convicted or plead guilty, rather than waiting for the official to be sentenced. The measure was inspired by former Prince George's County Councilwoman Leslie Johnson, who was infamously caught stuffing nearly $80,000 in cash in her bra and underwear and flushing a $100,000 check down a toilet to hide it from FBI agents knocking at her door.
Some of the other measures on the ballot aimed at legalizing same-sex marriage, expanding gambling in the state and upholding the state's new congressional districts.