'Dream Act' Referendum Headed for Appeal

Anne Arundel court sided last week in favor of November ballot question on 2011 law that would make hundreds of illegal immigrants eligible for in-state tuition.

The Maryland “Dream Act” is bound for more courtroom colloquy before appellate judges decide whether voters will settle the issue via the ballot.

Attorneys trying to prevent a November referendum said today they will appeal last week's ruling in Anne Arundel Circuit Court that the Dream Act doesn't meet the Maryland Constitution's provisions that exempt appropriations bills from a ballot-box challenge.

Signed into law in May, the Dream Act would qualify certain illegal immigrants for in-state tuition at Maryland community colleges. A trio of Republican legislators spearheaded a statewide petition drive that easily tallied enough signatures to block the Dream Act’s July 1 start date and put the issue to voters in November.

In August, a coalition of immigrant advocates and labor and teachers’ unions challenged the Maryland Board of Elections’s decision granting a referendum. The subsequent trial in Anne Arundel Circuit Court centered on the fiscal burden state taxpayers will bear in compensating for the hundreds of illegal immigrants every year that would pay the lower in-state rate. Analysts predict state lawmakers will need to allocate as much as $3.5 million in fiscal 2016 to cover the difference.

In his Feb. 17 opinion, Judge Ronald A. Silkworth ruled that a price tag alone is not enough define the Dream Act as a true appropriation.

D.C-based attorney Joseph E. Sandler—who leads the legal team trying to quash the referendum—will seek to convince appellate judges that the Dream Act's fiscal dimensions are intrinsic, not incidental.

“It’s the very grounds on which the measure was criticized by its opponents,” Sandler said Wednesday.

Appellate guidelines confine discussion to the issues laid out during the preceding trial—meaning that the debate will only rehash arguments made in the lower court.

“Hands down, it’s not an appropriation, and we think the [Circuit] Court got it right,” said Paul Orfanedes, director of litigation for Judicial Watch, a government watchdog that intervened in the Anne Arundel trial on behalf of the state elections board and Attorney General.

Sandler will file the appeal next week, he said, after deciding whether to leapfrog the Court of Special Appeals and ask the case to be heard in the Maryland Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court.

The Court of Special Appeals is a three-judge panel, while the Court of Appeals consists of seven judges. The jurisdictional decision will fall on administrators of the Court of Appeals.

Dream Act litigators timed the Circuit Court trial so that its eventual appeal would reach a final ruling within the next few months.

“We expect the case to be decided one way or the other well before” the November election, Sandler said.

Erick June 13, 2012 at 02:56 PM
You will not pay? You will not pay. When I pay my taxes, I just pay them. If the State decides to invest my money into education, it's the State's call. I don't make the calls in regards to education and health care. The immigration system is broken and we need to fix it. If you want to fight for a broken system, be my guest. But, if you want to fight to fix this problem, then you are the man.
Michael Brown June 13, 2012 at 03:53 PM
So fight it, that is your right. However, you already pay for "their" education through high school and have for decades. You also pay for health care to those who go to hospitals and cannot afford the health care provided. Both are internationally recognized as human rights with few civilized countries denying them. So good luck on your efforts to not pay for them. By the way, human rights is something that true Americans have fought and died for. So give it a break with your hate and vitriol - "illegal spawn", really?
Sam Law June 13, 2012 at 04:28 PM
I knew you would say that. No I own no property in Mont Co for that very purpose and will not. I am no hater , you are and the vitriol is yours. I tell the truth and quickly oh long winded . Your stuff does not pass muster. Progressives for Immigration Reform Judicial Watch NumbersUSA ALIPAC Help Save Maryland Now that is success in fighting back . Mine
Douglas June 13, 2012 at 07:24 PM
The best line that I hear the most is the one about how "they grew up thinking they were American". Whose fault is that? The insinuation is that they were somehow tricked by us and now we owe them something. Incidentially, I grew up thinking my family was rich... turns out, we were actually pretty poor, I just didn't know it. I guess now somebody owes me some "rich"? :-/
Michael Brown June 13, 2012 at 08:26 PM
Sounds like you did grow up rich, its a shame you no longer recognize it. What keeps coming up in the discussion of the Dream Act is whether to treat non-citizens who live in Maryland as Maryland residents. I don't know that anybody owes them citizenship, but it seems to me that if their families pay Maryland taxes (sales, property, income, etc.) then they should be afforded the same recognition as any other Maryland resident. w up rich, its a shame you no longer recognize it. What


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