A day after advocates for undocumented immigrants made a last-ditch effort to keep Maryland’s Dream Act from the November ballot, the state’s Court of Appeals did the opposite Wednesday, clearing the way for Maryland’s first referendum on a state law in 20 years.
In a brief, four-sentence order, the court said it affirmed the decision of an Anne Arundel county circuit court judge and would explain its position in an opinion filed at a later date. The court heard arguments for and against the referendum on Tuesday, its last day in session, and began its summer recess on Wednesday.
In essence, the order rejects a lawsuit filed by two unnamed illegal immigrants and other voters that contended that Maryland’s Dream Act involved fiscal matters and therefore under state law should be exempt from second-guessing by voters in a referendum.
In February, the Anne Arundel County judge ruled that the legislature intended the law to be a policy change and that fiscal consequences were “incidental.”
Under the state’s Dream Act, undocumented immigrants who can prove that they have attended Maryland high schools for at least three years and whose parents or guardians have filed taxes (but not necessarily earned enough to pay taxes) would be allowed to begin courses at community colleges at in-state rates.
Those who go on to earn an associate’s degree could transfer to a four-year institution at in-state rates. At the University of Maryland, annual tuition and fees for in-state students is $8,655, compared with $26,026 for out-of-state students.
Del. Neil C. Parrott (R-Washington) who began MDPetitions.com, a Web site that helped opponents of the law gather enough signatures to petition the measure to referendum, called the court’s decision the final hurdle to letting residents rightfully decide the law.
“This is a great victory for all Maryland voters,” Parrott said, noting that Republicans, Democrats and Independents signed petitions to put the measure on the ballot. ”Using tax money to pay college tuition costs for illegal aliens doesn’t make sense.”
Proponents of the Dream Act, including Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), are building a campaign to encourage voters to affirm the law.