by: Stephanie Paulino
With a federal DREAM Act continuously failing to garner enough votes from legislators, state versions of the controversial bill are being introduced throughout the country- and are facing mixed reactions.
The DREAM Act, which would provide temporary citizenship for undocumented students attending college, was blocked by the Senate most recently last December.
Several state lawmakers are pushing bills to allow the undocumented students to receive in-state tuition rates or private scholarships to make higher education more accessible.
Just last week, California pushed a law through its State Assembly that would allow students to obtain scholarships that are not derived from state funds. It awaits a Senate vote, where it will likely pass.
Also last week, another law granting private funds to undocumented students passed in the Illinois state legislature.
Senator Tom Johnson, one of the Republicans who voted in favor of the bill was quoted in a Huffington Post article published on May 4. “This is an American value issue,” he said to the chamber, according to observers on Twitter. Immigrant youth, Johnson said, “are our future. They are our fellow residents of Illinois.
In Maryland an in-state tuition law passed this spring. To qualify, students are required to complete two years at a community college, show that their parents have paid taxes for at least three years before they graduated high school, and prove that they attended at least three years of high school in the state.
Maryland is now one of 11 states with in-state tuition legislation, including California, New York and Texas. Opponents from many states, however, are looking to have the laws repealed.
News came last week about two Maryland legislators, Nic Kipke and Steve Schuh, who are looking to overturn the law, asking voters to sign a petition for a referendum, with the hope that voters will vote against the law.
“This is a good opportunity for people who are complaining about the direction government is taking to take a proactive step in sending a message to the General Assembly saying ‘Enough is enough. This bill doesn’t represent the values of me and my family, and I want to overturn what you’ve done,’ ” said Kipke, R-Pasadena, in a story by the Hometown Annapolis.
Meanwhile, students across the country continue to engage in protests to encourage support of these laws.
In April, celebrities Eva Longoria, American Ferrera and Rosario Dawson traveled to the White House to talk to President Barack Obama about immigration reform and the DREAM Act, as reported by the Washington Post.
At a recent commencement ceremony at Miami Dade College, Obama addressed graduates and pledged his support for the DREAM Act, according to the Latin American Herald Tribune.
“It makes no sense to expel talented young people from our country. They grew up as Americans. They pledge allegiance to our flag. And if they are trying to serve in our military or earn a degree, they are contributing to our future – and we welcome those contributions,” Obama said.