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Maryland Dream Act battle heads back to court

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Local,Maryland,Hayley Peterson

A Maryland law that would grant in-state tuition to illegal immigrants is going to the state's highest court, which will decide whether state residents get to vote on the measure before its enacted.

Maryland's Court of Appeals will hear arguments in June on a judge's decision to allow a referendum on the Maryland Dream Act, which would grant in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants who attended at least three years of high school and could show that their parents filed taxes in the state.

Gov. Martin O'Malley signed the Dream Act into law last year after it was passed by the General Assembly, but its enactment was stalled by a successful petition to send the measure to a ballot vote, giving Maryland residents the option to vote on the issue in November.

Proponents of the law, led by the immigrant rights group CASA de Maryland, argued before a judge earlier this year that the law cannot go to a referendum ballot because it qualifies as a state appropriation, which is not subject to repeal under the state's referendum laws.

Opponents of the law said it has nothing to do with state appropriations. While the law might increase the number of people who qualify for in-state tuition, it set aside no funding and does not change the formula that determines state spending on higher education.

"The Dream Act has so many ramifications for the taxpayers of Maryland and there isn't any question that it needs to go to referendum for the people to decide," said Del. Pat McDonough, R-Baltimore and Harford counties, who helped lead the successful petition drive. The Maryland State Board of Elections has verified more than 108,000 of the petition's signatures, which is nearly twice the 55,000 signatures needed to send the law to a ballot vote.

CASA de Maryland representatives did not return The Washington Examiner's multiple phone calls and messages.

The group's website says the Dream Act will benefit the economy and motivate students, which is the "best way to reduce societal issues that plague our communities, such as teen pregnancy, substance abuse and gangs."

McDonough said he's confident the Court of Appeals will rule in their favor and that he's counting on Marylanders to strike down the law on the general election ballot in November.

"This has national implications," McDonough said. "The Dream Act is one of Obama's pet projects and for the bluest state in the nation to defeat the Dream Act would be a punch in the nose to O'Malley, Obama's favorite governor, and it would be a major setback to O'Malley's plans to run for president."

hpeterson@washingtonexaminer.com

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