Two Catonsville churches will join forces on October 30 to host a community discussion about Maryland's DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act — a law up for vote next month that could allow certain undocumented students to pay in-state tuition at the state's public colleges and universities.
Catonsville Presbyterian Church and Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church decided to host the discussion to reach and educate as many people as possible about the act, as well as explain what it will and won't do if passed, said Susan Krehbiel, a Catonsville resident and member of Catonsville Presbyterian.
"There's a lot of confusion around this law and the federal Dream Act," said Krehbiel, who is also director of congregational advocacy for the Presbytery of Baltimore.
Gov. Martin O'Malley signed a law in 2011 allowing undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition if they can prove they attended state high schools for at least three years and that they or a parent or guardian has filed state income taxes.
On Nov. 6, through the Dream Act Referendum, voters will decide whether to uphold the law.
Federal Dream Act legislation, which addresses additional citizenship and immigration issues, has stalled in Congress.
Both the Presbyterian and Lutheran churches are in favor of passing the state referendum.
But the issue has drawn its share of criticism. Supporters of the Dream Act say the bill is fair and just and will have a positive economic impact. Opponents argue it encourages illegal immigration and could cause economic burdens.
It is important to welcome both supporters and opponents of the measure to the community discussion, said Ron Gunderson, an Ellicott City resident and Catonsville Presbyterian member.
That's why the event is open to everyone, he said.
"Our underlying principle is we respect all opinions," he said. "But it's not a rally."
"We feel strongly that an informed voter is the best voter," Gunderson said. "We're hoping it's going to be an open discussion."
The community discussion will begin on Oct. 30 at 7:15 p.m. inside Catonsville Presbyterian Church, 1400 Frederick Road.
Krehbiel, a pastor from Salem Evangelical Lutheran, and a college student who would benefit from the Dream Act, are scheduled to speak.
The speakers' session will end around 8:30 p.m. and will be followed by a question-and-answer period, as well as refreshments.