EDUCATION

Maryland Dream Act to go before voters

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Opponents of a Maryland bill that would grant some immigrant students in-state tuition are gaining ground.

A petition driven by opponents of the Maryland Dream Act will force the issue onto the 2012 ballot. The law offers in-state tuition to some illegal immigrants. It was set to go into effect Friday.

"I want to become a doctor,” Yves Gomes says. The 18-year-old had hoped to benefit from in state-tuition in Maryland. His parents are illegal immigrants. After a failed attempt to gain residency, they were deported in 2008. He hasn't seen them since.

"They told me the main thing you can do right now is continue your education," Gomes said.

Gomes got a reprieve to stay and continue studying at Montgomery College. Under Maryland's Dream Act, he would qualify for in-state tuition.

Opponents appear to have gathered the nearly 56,000 signatures needed by Thursday night's deadline. That suspends the new law until the November 2012 general election, when voters will get to decide on its fate.

Hundreds of students like Gomes were expected to apply for the in-state tuition benefit.

"To delay the bill, it's heartbreaking for me,” Gomes said.

Under the state's dream act, which was passed narrowly in April, undocumented students who can prove they attended a Maryland high school for three years and their parents are paying taxes, could pay tuition at in-state rates this fall. Opponents of the measure argue giving those students discounted rates is unfair, especially in times of tight budgets.

State senator Victor Ramirez, who supports the new law, isn't afraid to leave it up to voters.

"We are a progressive state and I think, once explained, what the legislation actually does, I think the majority of voters will vote in favor of it,” Ramirez said.

Gomes says he feels like what he wants is simple.

"If I can become educated and I can pursue my future. I want to help you,” he said. That will depend on what happens at the polls.

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