Maryland Dream Act Expected to Pass

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The school is currently battling a lawsuit filed by county taxpayers last month who claim that the college's in-county tuition policy is against the law and is costing the state millions of dollars.

Students at Montgomery College have mixed feelings about the school's long-standing practice is fair.

Kandace Hoes, a junior, says she doesn't have a problem with undocumented students being accepted into the college but not at the in-state rate.

"When there are legal students like me, struggling to get scholarships, grants and loans, there shouldn't be illegal students getting any money that I personally need for school," said Hoes.

Sophomore Fae Esquig says she thinks the undocumented students should work on getting citizenship, but should still pay the same rate as other students in the county.

Sending a Message

Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, the watchdog group representing the taxpayers who filed the lawsuit against Montgomery College, says the Maryland Dream Act bill sends the wrong message.

"There's this huge moral issue related to all of these illegal aliens being here in the United States," said Fitton, who believes state legislators should be enforcing the law, not bending it.

"Those who cut in line should suffer the legal consequences … that's fair," he continued.

But fairness is a relative term for students who say they would get the short end of the stick by Fitton's standards.

An Ongoing Debate

The legality of undocumented students being educated in the U.S. is an ongoing debate.

A 1982 Supreme Court case, Plyler vs. Doe, mandated that states are prohibited from denying immigrant students access to a public education and are required to educate students through high school. But federal law prohibits states from providing in-state rates for public colleges to undocumented immigrants unless the same rates are offered to all students, regardless of their home state.

The federal Dream Act, the bill that would have given young undocumented immigrants the opportunity to obtain legal status if they enrolled in college or joined the military, was passed by the House but blocked by Senate Republicans in December.

Dreamers nationwide have moved their fight for education rights to the state level. Currently, ten states allow undocumented students to pay the in-state tuition rate.

Anna Gutierrez, a Montgomery County delegate and supporter of the Maryland Dream Act, said Maryland is not Arizona, referring to the southwestern state's controversial immigration law (now on hold, pending appeals) that would allow law enforcement officers to demand proof of legal immigration status from anyone they stop.

"We [in Maryland] celebrate diversity," Gutierrez said. "We value the contributions of immigrants and hope to be able to open doors for them that other states are trying to close."

Historically, earning a college degree has been the gateway to success and a means to obtaining a better life in America.

Jesus Perez is waiting for the doors of opportunity to open for him.

"I think I will be happy once we all can work together and leave behind the boundaries that divide us," Perez said.

ABCNews.com contributor Kyla Grant is a member of the ABC News on Campus bureau in Washington, D.C.

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