Voting for DREAM Act is Jewish thing to do

Voting for DREAM Act is Jewish thing to do

Washington Jewish Week

By Barbara Goldberg, Andrew Mack and Bruce Turnbull

November 1, 2012

The Maryland DREAM Act, a groundbreaking measure to assist young immigrants passed by the Maryland state legislature last year, is now threatened by a ballot measure.  Voting "FOR" the Maryland DREAM Act (Question 4) on November 6 is imperative.  It will provide undocumented students that graduate from Maryland high schools with in-state tuition at state public colleges and universities, subject to important conditions.  These students grew up in the United States and attended American schools from a young age.  They watch American television and listen to American music, celebrate American holidays, and speak English - in sum, they are American.

Giving them the opportunity to pursue higher education is both the right and fair thing to do - and it will benefit our communities.  Maryland's DREAM Act would also reward good behavior by young people who, despite their circumstances, have worked hard and remained in school.  By enabling these students to continue their education, the DREAM Act could help break the cycle of underemployment, instability, and poverty so often experienced by undocumented immigrants and could reduce dropout rates, criminal justice costs, and the need for public assistance.  Importantly, the DREAM act will keep some of Maryland's best students - who arrived in the state as minors - in the state as adults, to start businesses, pay taxes and contribute to our future.

Importantly, the DREAM Act ensures that such students will not complete against other Maryland students for in-state "slots" but rather will be assigned out-of-state slots.  DREAMers must pass strict criteria to be granted in-state tuition, including graduation from a Maryland high school.  They or their parents must have paid Maryland taxes for a minimum of three years and must continue to pay Maryland taxes while the student is enrolled in a Maryland college or university.

When AJC was founded in 1906, one of our organization's core purposes was to promote fair treatment to newly-arrived Jewish immigrants, as well as to support policies that enabled Eastern European Jews to come to America.  Throughout our history, AJC has supported fair and generous immigration laws as a core Jewish value, growing out of our tradition that "strangers are to be welcomed and valued, as we were once 'strangers in the land of Egypt."  The absence of such laws resulted in the tragedy of Jews being turned away from our borders at their time of greatest need.

Our support for the Maryland DREAM Act also stems from the fact that this law supports the core Jewish value of education as the path to both personal growth and economic opportunity.  The American Jewish community has long supported a strong public education system.  This law furthers that goal, enriching the students who will be able to study at Maryland's public higher education institutions and the schools themselves.  Both will reap the benefits derived from increased student body diversity.

Based on experience in other states, the expected cost of this law is modest.  The students who receive the education will replay the state many times over, economically, socially and professionally. 

We urge a vote "FOR" Question 4 and support the Maryland Dream Act.

Barbara Goldberg Goldman and Andrew Mack are Co-Chairs of AJC Washington's Immigration Task Force.  Bruce Turnbull is an AJC Board Member.