With Election Day just two weeks away, "Dream Act" advocates have stepped up their million-dollar ad campaign and are convening a pair of rallies this week, one of which is expected to draw more than 800 faith-based activists to Silver Spring today.
Signed into law after narrowly clearing the 2011 legislative session, the Dream Act would allow illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition if they:
- Graduated from a state high school after attending at least three years
- Prove that they or their parents pay state taxes
- Apply for permanent U.S. residency and for the U.S. Selective Service
A Republican-led petition drive quickly garnered more than 100,000 signatures, more than twice what was required to send it to referendum. If it survives the Nov. 6 vote, Maryland voters will be the first in the nation to approve in-state tuition for illegal immigrants.
Dream Act opponents say that the collection of so many signatures in less than two months sends a message on how much opposition there is, and renders any would-be challenges to the signature count moot.
“The numbers are just too overwhelming,” Sue Payne, an organizer for Rally for America, said earlier.
Advocates have had to clamor for attention in the most crowded ballot in state history, which includes questions on same-sex marriage, congressional redistricting and the expansion of Maryland’s casino industry.
Educating Maryland Kids—a coalition of labor groups, educators, faith-based organizations and immigrant advocates—has ramped up its campaign in support of the Dream Act over the past two months.
Recent polls show strong support among likely voters: 61 percent according to Mellman Group, 58 percent according to Gonzales Research and 60 percent according to Garin-Hart-Yang. The single in-depth analysis of the Dream Act’s economic impact claims it will bring a long-term net gain of more than $60 million.
Buoyed by those successes, Educating Maryland Kids started its final push last week with three TV ads—one of which features Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown—arguing that “It’s right and it’s fair” for qualifying undocumented students to pay in-state tuition. The coalition also expanded its radio buy in Baltimore from two stations to five. In all, the media campaign is expected to top out above $1 million by Election Day.
On the grassroots side, Dream Act supporters are also mobilizing their network of students and faith-based groups to educate voters and encourage early voting.
On Tuesday, more than 800 religious leaders from across the state were convening in Silver Spring. On Thursday, high school students and elected officials were scheduled to rally at the University of Maryland-College Park, where the guest speakers will include U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin and state Dels. Joseline Pena-Melnyk, Heather Mizeur and Ana Sol Guiterrez.
Tuesday’s summit is expected to draw a diverse turnout to the Southern Asian Seventh-day Adventist Church in Silver Spring—Jews, Catholics, Episcopalians, Baptists, Presbyterians, Seventh-day Adventists, Methodists, Evangelicals and Muslims, according to a statement.
The summit is being organized by the Maryland Industrial Areas Foundation, a coalition of Action in Montgomery, BUILD in Baltimore and PATH in Howard County, which together represent 85 congregations, schools and neighborhood organizations.
“Every day I meet kids in my congregation who are DREAMers,” Bishop Darlingston Johnson of Bethel World Outreach Ministries in Silver Spring said in a statement.