Voters gave thousands of undocumented college students in Maryland the right to receive in-state tuition November 6, backing what had been dubbed the state’s version of the stalled DREAM Act on the federal level.
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) pushed the bill through the state legislature, arguing the measure was needed to provide an affordable education for undocumented students brought to the state as children, for whom Maryland is the only home they have ever known. But opponents charged the bill would sanction illegal immigration and is a misuse of state funds; they gathered enough signatures to place the proposal on the ballot.
By passing the initiative, Maryland joins more than a dozen other states to provide in-state tuition to students who are not legal residents, but is the first state to support such a policy at the ballot box. O’Malley has led his state in a number of progressive directions since taking office and is often touted as a potential presidential candidate in 2016.
Supporters of the in-state tuition law featured testimonials in their campaign from undocumented students hailing from diverse backgrounds, attempting to beat back the stereotype that the law was designed to favor Latinos.
But the law’s passage comes as federal immigration reform remains a hot-button issue, with Democrats and Republicans taking heat for not making headway on addressing the matter. President Barack Obama, this summer, ordered that young undocumented immigrants who met certain criteria would no longer face deportation, and would be allowed to apply to remain in the country while lawmakers develop reforms. Obama's re-election will give new energy to reform advocates hoping to overhaul the country's immigration system, avoiding maintenance of the status quo under a would-be Preisdent Romney, who favored so-called "self-deportaion" over adjusting the immigration system. Obama, however, has been mum on whether a second term will prominently feature an atttempt to reintroduce the DREAM Act.