By Sophie Petit for Capital News Service
With about a third of precincts reporting, Marylanders favored the Dream Act Tuesday, with 59 percent voting for the law that would allow some children of illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition at state colleges and universities.
Many votes were left to be counted as of 10 p.m., however.
If the referendum is approved, Maryland would join 12 other states that have passed similar laws.
“We want a state with smart people,” said Annapolis resident Brand Ginsburgh, 63, who voted in favor of the law Tuesday morning in Eastport. “The main thing is, they’re here. They should have access to better jobs.”
Under the law, undocumented high school graduates who could prove they or their parents paid income taxes for three years and earned 60 credits at a Maryland community college would qualify for in-state tuition rates at public two- and four-year colleges. Students would also have to sign an affidavit stating they would apply for a green card, which can take several years. After five years of holding a green card, they could apply for citizenship.
Some voters think undocumented students should go through the entire naturalization process first before receiving benefits.
Nancy Hopper, 76, a retired teacher who has lived in Crownsville for 45 years, voted against the law for this reason.
“They should go through a longer process, which people who have been here and come from other countries have had to do,” she said.
About 400 undocumented students a year would benefit from the law, according to a recent study by the Maryland Institute for Policy Analysis and Research, an independent research center founded by the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
After being signed into law, the Dream Act was successfully petitioned last summer to be placed on the November ballot as Question 4.
Maryland has no statewide laws about tuition rates and immigration status, leaving the power with individual schools and the Maryland Higher Education Commission to decide.
Some voters worry the law would encourage illegal immigration.
“It’s targeting our state for illegal immigration,” said Severna Park resident Mary Collins, 65, who voted against the law. “Other countries have stiff laws against illegals. We just open our doors.”
To others the Dream Act is about only one thing: Education.
“Education is the cornerstone of democracy,” said Annapolis resident Emerson Brooks, 52, who voted in favor of the law. “More education is better than less, always.”