Republican delegates delivered an overwhelming number of petitions to Annapolis on Thursday evening to get the Maryland Dream Act in front of the public for a vote in 2012.
More than 12 boxes, each brimming with petition signatures, were stacked around the entrance to the Maryland Secretary of State’s office on Thursday evening. They were delivered there by volunteers and delegates who want to see the Dream Act canceled by placing it on the 2012 ballot for a statewide referendum.
They needed 55,736 signatures. And Republican Del. Neil Parrott (R-Washington) said on Thursday that with this newest batch, they have amassed more than 110,000.
Senate Bill 167, commonly called the Maryland Dream Act, would allow high-performing, undocumented, immigrant students to attend college locally while paying in-state tuition rates. The bill passed through the House of Delegates by a 74-65 vote and the Senate by a 27-20 vote.
The bill was set to go into effect this week, but petition signatures began rolling in by the thousands. State and local officials say they have until July 20 to verify them.
Parrott has been spearheading the petition drive over the past months, and held a press conference outside the Secretary of State’s office, saying they crossed the finish line that evening. In front of a firing squad of television cameras, Parrott said the final days of the petition drive were overwhelmingly successful.
“There’s been a huge surge of signatures in the past few days, specifically today. We had a lot more that came to Washington County headquarters, and a lot that showed up right here in Annapolis, and those are being counted right now,” Parrott said. “The people of Maryland have spoken, and they’re going to win on this petition drive, and they’re going to win on this referendum in November of 2012.”
Parrott said the bill would cost the state too much money, during a time when it is already facing a billion-dollar deficit. He also said it skirts immigration laws.
“We have rules,” he said. “We need to enforce our immigration laws, and this bill tries to skirt around those.”
But just three months earlier, , just a few blocks away from where Parrott would later deliver boxes of signatures in opposition to the bill.
Maryland Senator Jim Rosapepe, (D-Anne Arundel) was cheered at that gathering when he said he was an Italian immigrant.
“We are a nation of immigrants,” Rosapepe said. “I understand the pride these people have in their heritage.”
U.S. immigration laws are "clearly broken," Rosapepe said. “But that’s no reason to deny students a good education."
After local officials count the petitions, the state Board of Elections will begin validating them to ensure that everything is kosher. But as long as 55,736 valid signatures were received, the Dream Act will be back in 2012 for a referendum.
Updated 11am.: After a final count last night, the number of petitions was raised from 110,000 to 130,000. The headline was updated to reflect that increase.