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Maryland DREAM Act set to become official

Maryland is set to join ten other states in passing a DREAM Act allowing undocumented immigrants to receive in-state tuition rates at state colleges and universities.

Texas was the first state to institute a DREAM Act in 2001, and other states have formally or informally used the term to refer to similar bills ever since. The federal DREAM Act, which would have offered a path to permanent resident status for undocumented immigrants who graduate from college, failed in the U.S. Senate in December.

The vote approving the bill in both the Maryland House and Senate came in the last hours of the state’s regular legislative session. The vote is galvanizing news for immigration reform advocates, who have in recent months condemned attempts like several in Texas seeking to repeal DREAM Act legislation. The three Texas bills that would undo in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants have been languishing in committee since their introduction.

The Maryland bill (PDF) is actually a bit stricter than other DREAM Acts around the country. In addition to requiring students without legal immigration status to complete high school and register for the Selective Service (if male), the bill requires that undocumented students attend two years of community college before being eligible for in-state rates at four-year institutions. Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) has promised to sign the bill and is expected to do so soon.

Meanwhile, on the schedule for today in the Connecticut House of Representatives is the state’s own version of the DREAM Act. The less pithily titled “Act Concerning Access to Postsecondary Education” not only codifies the notion that anyone living in the state should be considered an in-state student for higher education purposes, it also specifically addresses applying for legal status. From the bill:

A person, other than a nonimmigrant alien as described in 8 USC 1101(a)(15), shall be entitled to classification as an in-state student for tuition purposes, (A) if such person (i) resides in this state, (ii) attended any educational institution in this state and completed at least four years of high school level education in this state, (iii) graduated from a high school in this state, or the equivalent thereof, and (iv) is registered as an entering student, or is enrolled at a public institution of higher education in this state, and (B) if such person is without legal immigration status, such person files an affidavit with such institution of higher education stating that he or she has filed an application to legalize his or her immigration status, or will file such an application as soon as he or she is eligible to do so.

So under the bill, undocumented students in Connecticut would qualify for in-state tuition as long as they’ve finished high school and plan one day to obtain legal immigration status. While the bill has received some opposition from Republican legislators in public hearings, it is expected to pass in the Democrat-controlled House and Senate, who passed a similar bill in 2007, only to see it vetoed by then-Gov. M. Jodi Rell, a Republican. The current governor, Democrat Dan Malloy, has pledged to sign any DREAM Act-like legislation that crosses his desk.

A New York version of the DREAM Act has also been introduced in recent weeks by State Sen. Bill Perkins (D-Harlem). It has been in the Senate Finance Committee since its introduction.

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