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Questions About "Question 4"
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November 2, 2012
When Marylanders cast their ballots this fall, they'll answer "Question 4," often referred to as The Dream Act or the in-state tuition act. It would extend in-state tuition benefits at Maryland’s public colleges and universities to some undocumented immigrants. The issue has fueled emotions on both sides of the debate. But as WYPR’s Mary Rose Madden reports, there seem to be underlying questions.
Mary Rose Madden: When supporters and opponents of Question 4 go on their rants, they focus their arguments on what the Dream Act really means. But are they talking about what it means for education or what it means for immigration?
Kathy Afzali: “Ballot question number 4 is just bad law.”
Madden: If you ask Delegate Kathy Afzali, a Republican from Western Maryland, The Dream Act is about immigration policy.
Afzali: “Eighteen year olds are not children. Eighteen year olds are adults. And as such, when they turn eighteen, they have a responsibility to clear their status. This can be done. It’s very difficult to do, but they need to clear their status in order to stay in this country.”
Madden: She says the students who would benefit by paying in-state tuition are here illegally, after all.
Afzali: “We welcome them but we do ask that they stand in line, wait their turn, and follow our laws.”
Madden: Her husband immigrated from Iran and he’s here legally. Afzali says it’s folks like him who tell her:
Afzali: “Don’t you dare let them pass that law. I waited for fifteen years to get a spot in line, and it’s not fair that somebody wants to cut the line.”
Victor Ramirez: “Ideally, if you ask these students they would be more than happy to adjust your immigration status.”
Madden: That’s State Senator Victor Ramirez, a Prince Georges County Democrat. At a recent press event, he and other elected officials from Prince Georges County had their pictures taken with students who are African American, Lantino, and Muslim. These supporters of The Dream Act stand with pride - trying to symbolize the unity, diversity, and fairness they see in The Dream Act’s mission. Ramirez says our country’s immigration policy is broken – the procedure is tangled in red tape and the process is excruciatingly lengthy. But really, he says, The Dream Act is about education.
Ramirez: “If you read the legislation, it doesn’t deal with immigration. It deals with whether we’re gonna treat all our Maryland high school graduates the same or whether we’re gonna discriminate against some.”
Madden: Ramirez, who sponsored this bill, asks is it fair to punish people who had nothing to do with their circumstances.
Ramirez: “We can’t help where we’re born. We can’t help where our parents move when we’re children. But what we can do at the state level is give each and every one of our children the opportunity to better theirselves and give back to the state of Maryland.”
Madden: Roman Sandino, 28, says he used to be a dreamer. He was brought here when he was four.
Roman Sandino: “I grew very deep roots with friends, neighbors, schools that I attended. And my future was not clear.”
Madden: He and his family struggled for twelve years to become legal citizens. He says it was extremely difficult and confusing.
Sandino: “The best advice I have is that only attorneys know how to navigate the process. But that one has to be careful also with immigration attorneys.”
Madden: He warns to be careful because the first attorney he and his family used botched up his application and prolonged his application process. But a year ago, their application finally went through – but not before his parents raided their retirement fund to send him to College Park. Out of state tuition was $24,000 a year. I'm Mary Rose Madden, reporting from Prince George's County, for 88.1 WYPR.
You can reach the WYPR Newsroom at email@example.com.
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