SOURCE: Flickr / Antonio Villaraigosa
Students in Los Angeles rally for the DREAM Act in 2010.
Since the fight over immigration reform shifted from the national to local level, immigrant rights activists have seen the passage of more than a few heartbreaking bills in states like South Carolina and Georgia that aim to make life tougher for the undocumented.
But there was some good news out of Maryland on Monday: At the 11th hour of its legislative session, Maryland passed its own version of the DREAM Act. The bill now goes to Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), who has promised to sign it.
The federal version of the DREAM Act would have the power to give young people a path to citizenship if they attend college or join the military. Maryland’s bill is limited in some ways, but still offers benefits to undocumented youth. The Maryland bill allows for undocumented students to receive in-state tuition in public universities in the state, provided “they graduate from a state high school, complete 60 community college credits and prove that they and/or their parents have paid state taxes for at least three years,” according to the University of Maryland’s student paper, The Diamondback.
While many barriers to higher education still exist for undocumented youth in Maryland—including their inability to access federal student aid—the act will lift a huge financial burden from their shoulders. In-state tuition in Maryland is currently $8,416, while out-of-state fees clock in at a whopping $24,831.
Many state-level immigration measures have been proposed or passed in recent months that vary widely in aim—some, like Maryland’s are intended to make the lives of immigrants a bit easier in the absence of comprehensive immigration reform; others, like the outright ban on undocumented students in Georgia that seven undocumented students were protesting when they were arrested last week, are outright attacks on them. The more these individual local bills pass, the more maddeningly variant immigration policies around the country become. And no matter what pro-immigrant bills are passed at the state level, undocumented immigrants will continue to suffer without national legislation that provides a path to citizenship.
Still, Maryland’s passage of the bill is a victory for immigrants and pro-reform activists. It should be heartening to undocumented youth in states like Illinois (who are also pushing for a version of the DREAM Act in their state before their legislative calendar cut-off on Friday) and to immigrant students around the country who are rooting for the passage of the national DREAM Act, which will soon be reintroduced in the Senate by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).
Micah Uetricht is a staff writer with Campus Progress. You can follow him on Twitter @micahuetricht.