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‘Dream Act’ Supporters Amass Final Ballot Push

As advocates boost their million-dollar ad campaign, more than 800 faith leaders will rally Tuesday in Silver Spring to spur more voter outreach ahead of Election Day.

With Election Day just two weeks away, "Dream Act" advocates have stepped up their million-dollar ad campaign and are convening a pair of rallies this week, one of which is expected to draw more than 800 faith-based activists to Silver Spring today.

Signed into law after narrowly clearing the 2011 legislative session, the Dream Act would allow illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition if they:

  • Graduated from a state high school after attending at least three years
  • Prove that they or their parents pay state taxes
  • Apply for permanent U.S. residency and for the U.S. Selective Service

A Republican-led petition drive , more than twice what was required to send it to referendum. If it survives the Nov. 6 vote, Maryland voters will be the first in the nation to approve in-state tuition for illegal immigrants.

Dream Act opponents say that the collection of so many signatures in less than two months sends a message on how much opposition there is, and renders any would-be challenges to the signature count moot.

“The numbers are just too overwhelming,” Sue Payne, an organizer for Rally for America, said earlier.

Advocates have had to clamor for attention in the most crowded ballot in state history, which includes questions on same-sex marriage, congressional redistricting and the expansion of Maryland’s casino industry.

Educating Maryland Kids—a coalition of labor groups, educators, faith-based organizations and immigrant advocates—has ramped up its campaign in support of the Dream Act over the past two months.

Recent polls show strong support among likely voters: 61 percent according to Mellman Group, 58 percent according to Gonzales Research and 60 percent according to Garin-Hart-Yang. The single in-depth analysis of the Dream Act’s economic impact claims it will bring a long-term net gain of more than $60 million.

Buoyed by those successes, Educating Maryland Kids started its final push last week with three TV ads—one of which features Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown—arguing that “It’s right and it’s fair” for qualifying undocumented students to pay in-state tuition. The coalition also expanded its radio buy in Baltimore from two stations to five. In all, the media campaign is expected to top out above $1 million by Election Day.

On the grassroots side, Dream Act supporters are also mobilizing their network of students and faith-based groups to educate voters and encourage early voting.

On Tuesday, more than 800 religious leaders from across the state were convening in Silver Spring. On Thursday, high school students and elected officials were scheduled to rally at the University of Maryland-College Park, where the guest speakers will include U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin and state Dels. Joseline Pena-Melnyk, Heather Mizeur and Ana Sol Guiterrez.

Tuesday’s summit is expected to draw a diverse turnout to the Southern Asian Seventh-day Adventist Church in Silver Spring—Jews, Catholics, Episcopalians, Baptists, Presbyterians, Seventh-day Adventists, Methodists, Evangelicals and Muslims, according to a statement.

The summit is being organized by the Maryland Industrial Areas Foundation, a coalition of Action in Montgomery, BUILD in Baltimore and PATH in Howard County, which together represent 85 congregations, schools and neighborhood organizations.

“Every day I meet kids in my congregation who are DREAMers,” Bishop Darlingston Johnson of Bethel World Outreach Ministries in Silver Spring said in a statement.

s October 25, 2012 at 12:34 PM
Cynthia it's a well documented fact that the 2010 gay marriage bill as defeated in Annapolis because of African American church leaders in PG County. Look up the votes on record. The law was going to pass but church leaders in district 24 and 25 pressured their reps the week before the vote and the reps changed their position. That is reality. And that holds water. I worked for 6 months at the grassroots level in PG County on the 2010 bill and to be stabbed in the back makes me want to vote for Romney. We will see soon enough how people vote on question 6. In my opinion the support will not be reciprocated by the voting public. That’s an opinion, not a fact.
Cynthia Newcomer October 25, 2012 at 04:00 PM
Scot, I think change happens through long-term, challenging coalition-building, including support of each other's issues. With relationships formed through that kind of hard work, where you have each other's backs, there is less likelihood of last minute changes that doom legislation. I just haven't seen white gay groups engaged in that kind of long-term work. My experience has mainly been on the national level; maybe you are doing that work in PG County and I'm not aware. Another thing I've seen often is white gay groups comparing our issues to African American civil rights struggles, without doing work on racism within the white gay community. For example, in the marriage debate I've seen lots of white people talking about how this is comparable to the end of the ban on interracial marriage. I've also seen predominantly white groups (when I used to work on the state level on reproductive rights) assume the support of certain African American legislators without really talking with them or involving them in the legislative strategy. These are just some examples of behavior I believe harms our relationships with people of color organizations/legislators. I don't understand your connection between being "stabbed in the back" on the marriage issue in Prince George's County and voting for Romney. Is there some relationship between the presidential election and the PG votes on gay marriage that I'm missing? And how do you think a Romney presidency will advance gay rights?
s October 25, 2012 at 05:51 PM
We will see who supports question 6 soon enough. And you are right; there is no lack of discrimination. But, to get back to the point at hand, I'm doubtful African Americans and Hispanics will support gay equal rights which, I find hypocritical. I only speak for myself. Rev. Al Sharpton supported gay marriage on 9/21/12. I doubt that will translate into votes supporting question 6. I hope I am wrong.
Cynthia Newcomer October 25, 2012 at 06:00 PM
Yup, we will see soon enough. And regarding the point at hand, my point is that if we don't see support in the African and Latino communities, some of it is our own fault. But typically the communities who didn't vote the way we wanted them to get blamed. We need to be looking a lot more closely at what we need to do to win those votes.
Cynthia Newcomer November 07, 2012 at 06:05 PM
Just an update on this! So glad Dream Act and same sex marriage passed. And I found some numbers that are interesting given the convo Scot and I have been having. Latinos and African Americans are more likely to support same-sex marriage than the general population: 55% of Latinos (according to a March NBC/Wall Street Journal poll) and 59% of African Americans (according to a May Washington Post/ABC poll) support freedom to marry. I haven't seen stats yet for Maryland question 6, but I think we have to put those myths to rest that Latinos and African Americans oppose gay marriage and are responsible when that issue loses at the ballot box.

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