Maryland’s Version of the DREAM Act: Whose Dream?

Posted on November 8, 2012

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One surprise that came out of this election was that voters in Maryland passed that state’s rather more generous version of the DREAM Act, allowing some illegal immigrants to attend Maryland universities at the lower in-state tuition rates (Note, the never-passed federal DREAM Act would offer a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who came here as children; it would not dictate in-state tuition or allow federal scholarships).

I’m pretty socially liberal, but I confess to lining up with the Republicans on this one.  I understand the attraction of coming to America to find work and security.  I understand that some illegal immigrants were brought here as very small children, that they are not responsible for the fact that they ended up here, and that, having grown up here, they may feel thoroughly American and in many cases, know little or nothing about their “home country.”  I get that.  But it does not change the fact:  they are here illegally, and if anyone is to blame for these folks finding themselves in a legal-limbo mess, it is their own parents, not the US Government or US taxpayers.  I’m all for a reasonable path to citizenship for these folks.  Maryland just went way beyond my definition of “reasonable.”

Allowing illegal immigrants in-state tuition ahead of our own citizens is just wrong.  Check out this story of an Iraq War veteran, now an Army spouse, living in North Carolina… who was told she does not qualify for in-state tuition at the University of North Carolina.  Now, UNC does not offer in-state tuition to illegal immigrants, although in 2007 they seriously weighed doing exactly that; but this is still an instructive case of how we should help our own citizens first.  The Federal Government tells Sergeant Perez’ military family where to live, and that has been North Carolina for the last seven years.  She and her husband own a home there.  They are registered to vote there.  They pay state taxes there.  But apparently because they serve their country, UNC considers them non-residents for tuition purposes.  It is not trivial:  as WRAL reported back in 2007, “In-state tuition ranges from $1,500 to $3,700 while out-of-state students pay $10,000 to $20,000.”  Ouch.  Sergeant Perez makes up that cost differential out of her own pocket.

If the Sergeant were an illegal immigrant in Maryland, however (or in any of 13 other states that allow in-state tuition rates for illegal immigrants), the taxpayers would eat that cost for her.  And that’s where I agree with Republican Paul Stamm:  in response to UNC’s previous consideration of possibly offering in-state tuition rates to illegal immigrants, he said,  “It has to do with the responsibilities of North Carolina taxpayers to provide an appropriate education for the citizens of North Carolina.”  Amen to that, and too bad Maryland didn’t pay closer attention.  There are only so many taxpayer dollars to go around.  Spend them on our own citizens.

And what to do about the now-grown kids who were brought here illegally by their parents, through no fault of their own?  It’s a tough situation.  Again, I agree that some kind of path to citizenship should be possible for them, but I strongly disagree with making it too easy, too advantageous, too… enticing… not to mention, better than what we offer our own.

Is it not enough that we educate these children at taxpayer expense in our public schools?  Is it not enough that, rather than unceremoniously deporting them to the lands of their birth, we weigh and consider their rights?  Is it not enough that we allow them to remain here, and attend our institutions of higher education, while displacing some of our own citizens from the matriculation rolls?  And now we have to give them an $18,000 discount*, too?  One that our own military veterans can’t get?  Is it really too much to ask that illegal immigrants just pay the full tuition rate, like so many Americans have to?

So there you have it.  Call it Lila’s ugly secret, perhaps, but she won’t apologize:  she’s not in favor of illegal immigration, nor of rewarding it.

*At the University of Maryland in College Park, in-state tuition is $7,175 a year, while out-of-state students pay $25,554.

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