By Doo Yong Shim | New Organizing Project blogger
In April 2011, both houses in the Maryland General Assembly approved the Maryland DREAM Act, legislation that would allow immigrant students to pay in-state tuition at public Maryland colleges and universities. However, the legislation was stopped by a petition and is now put to referendum. The referendum will appear on the November 2012 ballot in Maryland as a veto referendum.
This summer, many Maryland DREAM Act supporting organizations are launching campaigns to educate Maryland voters to vote in this November’s elections to keep the Maryland Dream Act. In fact, NAKASEC organized their first ever Social Justice Camp and Maryland DREAM Summer to bring youth leaders from their affiliates, KRCC in Chicago and KRC in Los Angeles, to Washington, DC to involve them in outreach activities and educate them on civic engagement and immigrant rights.
While many organizations are supportive of passing the Maryland DREAM Act and providing better access to education for immigrant students, others are making xenophobic comments, showing strong discontent. Most of these comments seem to come from the fear of further economic downfall. Without properly understanding what the Maryland DREAM Act states, it appears that people are making the assumption that the legislation would allow undocumented students to take advantage of the taxpayers.
However, it is extremely important to acknowledge the fact that according to the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy, in 2011, the amount of taxes paid by undocumented immigrants amounted to approximately $11.2 Billion. Yes, $11.2 Billion. This means that many undocumented immigrants, despite some taxpayers’ fears, actually do contribute to American society.
Now, look: Maryland’s undocumented immigrants are reported to have paid $275 million in local and state taxes in 2011, placing Maryland as one of the states collecting the most taxes from undocumented immigrants.
Right now, approximately 65,000 undocumented students graduate from U.S. high school each year. Teenage years are the most crucial years in finding self-identity, and it is reasonable to say that the most of the 65,000 students would identify themselves as “Americans.” Upon high school graduation, many have no clear plans for college because of their immigration status. If they are all given the opportunity to pursue higher education, that would also mean that more educated and talented individuals would be able to contribute to the country they most closely associate to. The only reason many undocumented immigrants enter the U.S. are to attain a better life for themselves and their children.
With the skills and background they have, I believe that many undocumented immigrants would bring even more positive light to the U.S. economy so shouldn’t we give them the opportunity to achieve their dreams?