Why voters should support the Md. Dream Act in November

Brad Botwin's recent letter to the editor urges voters to overturn the Maryland Dream Act in November, but he misinforms your readers to make his case ("Dream Act a poor investment for Md.," July 31). A diverse coalition of leaders and organizations are working to defend this common-sense legislation because it reflects the value we place on education.

Mr. Botwin claims that tuition costs will go up for all students if the Dream Act is sustained by voters. But the University System of Maryland has supported this legislation from the beginning, and no college president has indicated the law will require a tuition increase.

Mr. Botwin also suggests that undocumented students will displace out-of-state students at Maryland colleges and universities. This idea is based on his speculation that the immigrant student population will "explode." But the claim is not supported by the facts from the 11 other states that have passed similar legislation.

In none of those states has the proportion of Dream-eligible students equaled more than 1 percent of the student population, even in states like Texas and California, which have had Dream Acts for a decade. Moreover, Maryland is the only state to have a taxpaying requirement, making it even tougher to qualify.

The law is also very clear in specifying that Dream students who apply will only be competing against out-of-state students in the admissions process. They will not take slots that otherwise would go to native-born Maryland residents.

And while Mr. Botwin is correct that the bill requires applicants to "file" tax returns rather than "pay" taxes, the distinction ensures that no one is excluded by qualifying for the low-income tax credit in the current federal and state tax codes. Dream Act students must meet the same tax-paying requirements as other Maryland residents.

Because of President Barack Obama's recent directive, Dream students will be eligible for work permits. This will enable talented young people to pursue a higher education that allows them to become assets to the state's economy when they enter the workforce.

The Maryland Dream Act aims to help kids who have lived in Maryland for most of their lives and who want the opportunity to contribute to the only place they know as home. It's a wise investment for the state and it's also the right thing to do.

Jody Olsen, Baltimore

The writer is a visiting professor at the University of Maryland School of Social Work.

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