Maryland Dream Act defenders want to "educate" voters

Defenders of the state's Dream Act say voter education will be key to their success in November, when Marylanders weigh-in on a new law that lets some illegal immigrants pay in-state tuition.

"Our goal will be be education about what the Dream Act really does," said Travis Tazelaar, campaign manager for Educating Maryland Kids, the ballot committee defending the law. He estimated that "millions" would be needed to fund a state-wide campaign.

The ballot committee was created in December 2011, and reported $75,000 in donations in April when they last filed financial disclosure forms with the state board of elections. The money came from three $25,000 checks written by the Maryland Service Employee International Union. (Ballot committees in Maryland can accept unlimited campaign donations.)

Tazelaar said the coalition also includes Casa de Maryland, the Maryland State Education Association, the Maryland Catholic Conference, NAACP, the American Federation of Teachers and the AFL-CIO.

The law would allow illegal immigrants to benefit from lower in-state tution at Maryland colleges and universities if they've graduated from Maryland high schools and if their family has filed tax returns during that time. Students would have to attend community college first, but would be eligible to transfer to a university after two years or 60 credits.

"These are kids who are an intragal part of our community," said Kristin Ford, the communications director for the group.

The law passed in 2011, but it never took effect because opponents petitioned it to the 2012 ballot. Del. Neil Parrott, who led the petition effort, said a ballot committee to repeal the law hasn't yet been formed. He plans to do so next month, after wrapping up work on another petition effort.

Parrott said his side, too, will focus on how the law will impact Marylanders. "We are going to be trying to get the facts out," he said.