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Washington Post Blasts Efforts to Block Maryland DREAM Act Through Referendum

by Mahwish Khan on 05/13/2011 at 10:39am

maryland dream actEarlier this week, the Governor of Maryland, Martin O’Malley signed into law his state’s version of the DREAM Act. That was a significant step forward for DREAMers in his state. But, there’s a possible complication: Maryland allows its residents to repeal legislation through the referendum process. And a group of anti-immigrants extremists, led by Delegate Pat McDonough, have begun an effort to repeal the DREAM Act.

Today, the Washington Post’s editorial board slammed the effort to block the DREAM Act — and mocked McDonough for even trying:

The activists have launched a petition drive to block the law from taking effect this year by collecting about 58,000 valid signatures to put it on the ballot in 2012.

The leader of the petition drive is Pat McDonough, a Baltimore County lawmaker who was among 55 Republicans to vote as a bloc against the legislation, known as the Dream Act, last month. Mr. McDonough is a radio talk show personality whose past crusades have included enshrining English as Maryland’s official language and promoting ownership of stun guns and Tasers. His record of success in the General Assembly is almost nil; the legislature has passed just two bills of the more than 50 he’s introduced since being elected to the House of Delegates in 2002. He refers to Annapolis as “Wackoville” and the legislature as the “General Asylum.”

Mr. McDonough insists that tuition breaks for undocumented immigrants will cost Marylanders “hundreds of millions of dollars” in lost tuition revenue; in fact, most estimates are considerably lower than that. He says undocumented Maryland students should pay the out-of-state rate if they want to attend college. The reality is that many will not be able to afford it.

The bottom line for Mr. McDonough, as for many Republicans, is that illegal immigrants can and should be made to leave the country, and that federal, state and local governments can hasten that process by taking legislative and administrative steps that make life impossible for them.

This is fantasy, of course. Eleven million undocumented immigrants are in America, 7 million of them in the workforce; many have been here a long time and are deeply interwoven in the fabric of their communities. The idea that they can somehow be made to disappear — “attrited,” in Mr. McDonough’s euphemism — is a daydream. It won’t fly with businesses, industries and citizens that need and have come to rely on undocumented workers and residents.

McDonough would fit right in with the “Three Amigos” in Congress: Representatives Lamar Smith (TX), Elton Gallegly (CA) and Steve King (IA). They ultimately want to deport all undocumented immigrants. What McDonough calls “attrited,” the “Three Amigos” call “attrition through enforcement.” That may be their fantasy, but it’s actually a nightmare, not only for immigrants, but for the U.S. economy.

The conclusion of the Post’s editorial explains succinctly and powerfully why the DREAM Act makes sense for Maryland — and the nation:

In following at least 10 other states in enacting some version of the Dream Act, Maryland opened a door to youngsters who hope for a better future, like generations of immigrants before them. If that door is slammed, Maryland will shortchange its own future by blocking those residents from fulfilling their potential.

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