Anti-immigrant tuition break campaign to pick up speed, Harford delegate says

After a successful petition drive last year to take the so-called Dream Act to referendum this fall, Harford County Del. Pat McDonough is gearing up again to overturn the law granting in-state tuition breaks to illegal immigrants.

Earlier this month, the delegate formally announced a campaign committee that would lead the effort to defeat Senate Bill 167, known as the Dream Act.

McDonough, who represents parts of western Harford and eastern Baltimore counties, said his will be a nonpartisan campaign to oppose the Dream Act, which will be on the ballot Nov. 6.

"This is a nonpartisan effort. It's going to be very interesting and very lively," he said, adding he expects CASA de Maryland, the state's largest Latino and immigrant advocacy organization, to raise $10 million to challenge the effort to defeat the law.

The controversial measure was enacted during the 2011 session of the Maryland General Assembly session and signed into law by Gov. Martin O'Malley, a supporter of the legislation.

The law provides in-state tuition waivers at Maryland's public colleges and community colleges for children of people in the country illegally.

Harford County's three state senators and eight state delegates all voted against the legislation.

What he called "radical groups" from around the country will be descending upon Maryland to support the Dream Act, McDonough said.

"This issue is huge, from a political point of view," he said. "If the Dream Act is defeated, O'Malley is going to get a political bloody nose."

The referendum petition was highly visible around Harford County last year. John Paff, vice president of legislative affairs for the Route 40 Republican Club, said Harford ranked third of all jurisdictions in the number of signatures collected, with organizers ultimately getting 15,028 signatures locally.

Opponents of the Dream Act were prominent at summer events around Harford, such as the hearing on toll increases on the Susquehanna River bridges and the Darlington July 4th parade.

McDonough said he has "tens of thousands" of volunteers and predicts a record turnout of voters this fall because of the referendum.

He also predicted it will be the "intense, largest" campaign in the history of the state.

Residents would see more campaigning by the summer, he said, adding it will "supersede" the intensity of the original petition drive.

McDonough made it clear he remains committed to his pet cause to overturn the law.

"I nursed this thing from the beginning," he said.

CASA filed a lawsuit last year questioning the validity of the petition, but conceded in early December 2010 that opponents did get enough signatures to force this fall's statewide vote, according to a Dec. 8 article in The Baltimore Sun.

The group is still saying the referendum should be dropped because the Dream Act was technically an appropriations measure and under the state constitution cannot to be petitioned, according to the article.

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