Education is the key to success. The higher level of education obtained, the higher salary earned, and the better the opportunities available for jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. These days, the massive expense of college tuition versus the rickety status of the economy has many people struggling to give themselves or their children the opportunity to get a college education. The government is trying very hard to make education feasible for all citizens, and as of recently, to those who are not Americans at all. For the state of Maryland, education is strictly for Americans only.
The Maryland Immigrant Tuition Bill is the state’s version of Obama’s DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act), which allows students who are undocumented immigrants and have attended a Maryland school for more than three years to obtain in-state tuition to colleges. Normally to attend schools in their area, these students would have to pay out-of-state tuition, which can be more than $10,000 greater than in-state tuition. Without citizenship, these students also would not be eligible to receive federal aid to help pay their expenses.
The bill was passed early this year and was signed and favored by Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley and many other representatives with the hopes of being enacted this year. His constituents, however, are not having it. Washington County Republican Del. Neil Parrott led an initiative to get Marylanders to petition against the bill. Last Thursday, July 7th 2011, the final total of 74,980 validated signatures was announced, enacting a referendum. The future of the bill is now in the hands of the citizens.
These individuals are worried about how this bill will take from their taxes, state finances, and their own scholarships. “[This bill] is illegal education,” said Olivia Bethea. Bethea is a senior at Howard High School in Columbia, Maryland and in the midst of her own college application process. “There are many deserving citizens who want to send their kids to college. Use government funds to make their life better,” Bethea added.
Joy Omenyi, a Maryland citizen and incoming college freshman at University of Virginia, said “The money awarded from FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is from taxpayers and most illegal immigrants don’t pay taxes so that just isn’t fair.”
However, the bill still has many fervent followers who believe that there is a bigger issue at hand than the obvious immigration battle.
“It’s about education, it’s not about immigration,” said State Senator Victor Ramirez, Prince George’s representative according to an Associated Press story in The Daily Record.
The goal of the Immigrant Tuition Bill is to help students reach their potential and when much of the population is composed of undocumented people struggling to stay in the country, let alone finance their lifestyles, many children are getting left behind. “These young people had no say in what was going to happen to them,” said Rose Ann Robertson, Associate Dean of the School of Communications at American University in Washington DC. “They are in America at no fault of their own.”
As an educator, she believes this opportunity is necessary to give these young people a chance to better themselves and the country as well. “Education will make them a vital value to society. They become taxpayers, they become active citizens, and they strengthen our own culture in America. It’s a win-win situation” said Robertson.
Carolyn Freeman is a senior at Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, Maryland. Being half Hispanic, it is more personal, she said. This issue hits home in the Latino community being that most undocumented immigrants seem to be Hispanic. “[The bill] gives these children the opportunity to better themselves in America without being stuck at minimum wage jobs,” Freeman said.
The Immigrant Tuition Bill is infiltrating state legislation across America. Ten states, including California and New York have already approved the bill. The process will not run as smoothly in Maryland, however, for thousands of citizens are proving to be a strong force against it. Because of their efforts, this bill will be in the hands of the voters when the November 2012 elections come around. -30-