Eye on the States: MD Dream Act
You’ve probably heard that this election next month is a big one. Many organizations – the RAC included – have spent hours and days and weeks and months encouraging people to Get Out the Vote and to exercise their rights as citizens of the United States to democratically and (mostly) justly select the leaders who will represent them.
Unfortunately, not all Americans have this fundamental right. In fact, there are 11.5 million people who live in the United States and contribute to our economy and society who not only do not possess the right to vote, but aren’t even recognized as legal residents of the country they call home.
The DREAM Act sought to fix a part of this monumental problem by granting temporary residency to undocumented residents who arrived in the U.S. as children, graduated from a U.S. high school and spent time either serving in the military or through the pursuit of higher education.
While the DREAM Act has yet to pass in the federal legislature, a version of it is on the ballot in Maryland in this upcoming election. The Maryland DREAM Act (or “Question 4 Referendum Petition,” as it’s formally called) allows undocumented high school graduates to pay in-state tuition for college, making it possible for a specific category of young people—regardless of their immigration status—to attain higher education and make a life for themselves in America.
The Act was passed by Maryland legislature in April of 2011, but opponents have collected enough signatures to put it up for a popular vote in November. This is a chance for Maryland voters to prove to their legislatures, and to the American public, that they care about this crucial issue. If this issue matters to you, you don’t have to live in Maryland to act! Click here to learn about canvassing and phone banking efforts that Americans across the country can participate in.
While a vote for the MD DREAM Act is a critical step forward, there’s much more work to be done on the federal level. Seeing the DREAM Act fail in Congress, Obama issued an executive order granting temporary residence permits to youth who would have been affected by this legislation. While we at the RAC applauded this as a critical step forward, it was dampened by his decision to not extend health benefits to these young students. Click here to tell Secretary Sebelius of the Department of Health and Human Services that you oppose this decision!
There are many reasons to support the DREAM Act—either in Maryland or federally. There are economic arguments. There are public safety arguments. There are security arguments. There are Jewish arguments. But at the end of the day, this is not an economic issue, or a public safety issue, or a security issue, or even a Jewish issue. It is a moral issue. These youth want to go to school in and contribute to the only country they’ve ever called home. It is incumbent upon us to give them the same opportunities that previous generations gave each and every one of us.
Image originally found here.