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Students Rally For The Maryland DREAM Act
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October 8, 2012
On November 6th, Marylanders will go to the polls and vote on Question 4 also known as The Maryland DREAM Act, one of this election’s referenda. It would give students who are illegal immigrants in-state tuition to public universities. It requires that the students have gone to a Maryland high school for 3 years and graduated. It also requires that their parents or they themselves have filed tax returns for three years. And the students must earn 60 credits at a community college before going on to a four-year college or university. On Saturday afternoon, hundreds of students, teachers, and parents held the biggest rally yet for The Dream Act. WYPR’s Mary Rose Madden files this report.
Mary Rose Madden: From Salisbury State University on the Eastern Shore to St. Mary ‘s College in Southern Maryland to Towson University to right here in College Park, students are getting together to support the “dreamers”. The dreamers are the children of illegal immigrants who have lived in Maryland most of their lives and are now trying to qualify for in-state tuition. They canvas and table, they knock on doors and they register fellow students to vote. The stories are everywhere you turn – young people who remember leaving their countries, often in traumatic circumstances, and landing in a foreign place without the proper documentation. Many students do not want to give their last names, like 23-year old Andres who was born in Peru and came here when he was eleven.
Andres: I’m studying engineering at Montgomery College I’ve been there for four years but I can’t move on yet because of paper reasons. So, I’m hoping for The Dream Act to come through so I can just continue studying so I can move on to a batchelor degree there.
Madden: And there was twenty five year old Diego who was born in Ecuador. He was brought to Baltimore when he was twelve.
Diego: It didn’t make sense – why am I going to school if I’m not going to be able to do anything with it?
Madden: He says he struggled to adjust, faced discrimination, and then fought his way to get through higher education.
Diego: It’s been tough but with work I’ve been able to accomplish a lot of things.
Madden: He graduated from UMBC – but paid the out-state tuition by working three jobs while attending college full-time. The students at the rally are holding signs that say “education not deportation” – and they chant “si se puede” – yes, we can. But not all of the students are illegal immigrants. Hilary Bray, 17, is from Prince Georges County and attends UMBC.
Hilary Bray: If you deserve to be in the college, if you’ve worked hard, you’ve made the grades, and you’ve taken the tests and you get in – go to college.
Madden: The rally picks up momentum and the marching band leads the crowd of hundreds through University Boulevard, en route to the College Park campus. Traffic stops, police officers flash their lights, and the mostly young crowd shows their enthusiasm wearing t-shirts that say “I am the Dream Act“. Todd Eberly is an assistant professor of political science at St Mary’s College. He’s not surprised that college campuses are so involved in this election.
Todd Eberly: We don’t give enough credit to how much young people do GET American politics.
Madden: Eberly, who himself supports The Dream Act, says the issue has crossed political lines for young people.
Eberly: Among younger folks - whether it’s the dream act or same sex marriage- you tend to find support for both and it’s quite clear whether the students are Democrats or Republicans.
Madden: Elizabeth Clifford is the Chair of Department of sociology, Anthropology and Criminal Justice at Towson University. She says misinformation has been spread about The Dream Act. She’s seen her students shocked at how politics can turn ugly.
Elizabeth Clifford: I had a student in a class and when we were talking about it she started to get this look of horror on her face. And she said I signed the petition to put this referendum. I signed it because they told me, “sign this if you don’t want illegal aliens to get free tuition,” which is not at all what the act says.
Madden: A little over 100,000 signatures were gathered to take this issue to referendum. But Millions are expected to vote in November. I’m Mary Rose Madden reporting in College Park for 88-1, WYPR.
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