Last-minute push for Dream Act and other election causes

Red-hot ballot questions stoke voter interest in tomorrow's election.

question 4 jj

Jonathan J.J. Jayes-Green of Silver Spring, a native of Panama, said that without in-state rates, his family couldn’t afford the University of Maryland.

Photo by: Fern Shen

Rallying the troops before the election, organizers of the effort to give some illegal immigrants access to in-state tuition rates fortified about 200 of their supporters yesterday with soft drinks and sandwiches and armed them with fliers.

But hearing the story of an undocumented young man from Panama probably gave the crowd their most powerful boost, as they prepared for a chilly day of canvassing in East Baltimore on behalf of Ballot Question 4, the so-called Maryland Dream Act.

“I could not attend the college of my dreams because I could not afford it,” said Jonathan “J.J.” Jayes-Green, who said he came to America at age 13.

"Education is power," speakers told this crowd, rallying to canvass in Fells Point on behalf of Question 4.

“Education is power,” speakers told this crowd, rallying to canvass in Fells Point on behalf of Question 4.

An ESL student initially, the Silver Spring resident mastered English, excelled in his Montgomery County middle school and high school and attended Montgomery County Community College for two years.

But Jayes-Green said he hit a roadblock when it came to the University of Maryland, where he wanted to study public policy or sociology.

Because of his immigration status, he wasn’t eligible for the $8,000 in-state tuition rate and instead faced the prospect of $24,000 annual out-of-state rates.

“It was more than my family could afford,” Jayes-Green told the crowd of mostly college and high school students, organized by the youth leadership group, The Intersection, assembled at Baltimore Freedom Academy.

“But that’s why my mother pushed and left her job as an accountant to clean houses here” in the U.S., Jayes-Green said, “so I could have a brighter future.”

A Perfect Storm for Voter Turnout

Polling shows a close contest on Question 4, with a slight edge going to supporters. According to the most recent Baltimore Sun poll, which showed 47% in favor and 45% opposed. (The poll has a margin of error of 3.5%.)

Opponents, who petitioned to put the “Maryland Dream” law passed by the legislature this year on the ballot, argue that giving illegal immigrants “a free ride” will bankrupt the state and is unfair to in-state residents here legally.

Supporters note that the law at issue requires the parents of the students to have filed Maryland income taxes for three years.

Early voting early at 1111 E. Cold Spring Lane, where waits of more than an hour and lines stretching outside and around the building were not uncommon. (Photo by Fern Shen)

Early voting early at 1111 E. Cold Spring Lane, where waits of more than an hour and lines stretching outside and around the building were not uncommon. (Photo by Fern Shen)

Question 4 – along with other hotly-contested ballot measures (such as Maryland Question 6 allowing same-sex marriage and Question 7 allowing for the expansion of casino gambling) – are combining with a too-close-to-call presidential race to make for the perfect storm of turnout.

Early voting in Maryland clocked in at 430,573 votes cast by the time the polls closed Friday night after five days of voting, according to the Maryland State Board of Election Law. That’s 11.6% of eligible voters – almost double the turnout in 2010 after six days of voting in the gubernatorial race.

Responding to complaints from voters about hour-long waits and traffic congestion at early voting locations, lawmakers pledged to introduce legislation expanding the hours, days and locations.

Almost $90 Million Spent on Gambling Question

Meanwhile the canvassing , rallies, television, radio, web and newspaper ads and robo-calls continued in what is shaping up to be a record-setting election not only in early voting turnout but campaign spending.

Powerful interests with stakes on either side of Question 7 – expanding gambling at National Harbor or restricting gambling to five previously designated sites – have so far spent close to $90 million to sway voters.

That’s more than what was spent in the last three Maryland gubernatorial races combined!

To Give Others a Chance

What’s at stake for Jonathan Jayes-Green  is no longer his own future. he told The Brew before yesterday’s rally. Now a student at Goucher College, he said he received a private scholarship that is allowing him to pursue a degree there.

“But it’s ironic, because it’s higher tuition and room and board, when I could have been attending the University of Maryland for much less, and  it’s around the corner, relatively speaking, from where I live,” he said.

Jayes-Green said he’s been canvassing, speaking at rallies and addressing faith communities to try to make the path to a better life easier for others who, like him, grew up without legal status. That’s what brought the students, and many of their teachers, to Sunday’s rally.

“One of my goals is to go to college. This goal is shared by many of my peers. But I realize that many of my friends cannot go to college because they are undocumented and therefore cannot pay in-state tuition rates at Maryland colleges,” said Intersection organizer Antonio Crossly, a junior at Baltimore Freedom Academy.

“I want to make sure a college education is not restricted but is readily available to anyone willing to work for it,” Crossly added.

U.S. Senator Ben Cardin, who addressed the rally and is running for reelection, said he supports Question 4 because the state needs to educate students like Jayes-Green.

“I believe Maryland will lead the nation by passing the Dream Act, which is about fairness and about education for our children, many of whom have known no other country than the United States,” he said.

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  • Gerald Neily

    Cardin is a U.S. Senator. He should be focusing on correcting the U.S.’s dysfunctional immigration policies instead of band-aid half-measures like the Maryland Dream Act which are out of his political jurisdiction. The real problem is that Jayes-Green’s mother is forced to clean houses when she is trained as an accountant, and that she felt compelled to violate U.S. immigration law in the first place and put her son’s education in jeopardy. And anytime people violate the law, it creates mistrust which generates the bad feeling which is responsible for much of the immigrant backlash in this country. But then again, some people are professional baiters and posers who would rather deal in half-measures like the Dream Act than actually solve problems. And “My Friend Ben” insists on making the U.S. social welfare “safety net” ever more all-encompassing which makes the U.S. even more attractive to illegal immigrants. And I can’t feel too sorry for Jayes-Green. Goucher is a fine school and he should be grateful to those who awarded his scholarship.

    • Kim Trueheart

      Jayes-Green’s mother didn’t “put her son’s education in jeopardy” by immigrating to the U.S., but instead afforded her son options for his high school and college education far beyond what was available to him if they stayed in Panama Mr. Neily.  America’s promise is what draws people to our shores, some willingly, some by force, and others illegally, but the common reason for staying are the opportunities to uplift one’s status with hard work and equal access to, argueably, the best educational systems in the world. Mr. Neily you seem off your normal balanced and cogent discussion in this topic and I must say that casting the broad net, as you have, smells foul! There does NOT appear to be any reason for you to feel sorry for Mr. Jayes-Green … He EARNED his scholarship!!!

      • Gerald Neily

        Thanks for the compliment, Kim, calling me “balanced and cogent”. Seems the best way to fish for compliments is to say something to counter that once in a while. But what I said was “she felt compelled to violate U.S. immigration law in the first place and put her son’s education in jeopardy.” It’s the decision between illegal and legal immigration. U.S. policies have made illegal immigration more attractive and popular than legal immigration, and The Dream Act makes it worse.

  • Unellu

    I will vote for Question 4–this is about education–I’ve thought over this long and hard.  At first I was against the Dream At.  I loathed politicians who would come up with useless stop gap measures to address our illegal immigration problem.  But I had to separate my emotions from my logic.  I decided I’d rather have kids of the people here illegally educated–let them go as far as they want to go.  I know a lot of legals and a whole lot of citizens, here for generations, who reject education.  They while away their time, scorning all things cerebral, in a drug haze, marijuana and alcohol their omnipresent gods.  There are children of illegals, I am sure, who are no different.  But for those who are scholastically ambitious and want to study, I a taxpayer, am willing to help.  These children don’t want to smoke dope, they don’t want to kill, rob or be hooligans and bums.  They want to study, for god’s sake.  Let them have a crack at it.  The have not respect education more than the haves.  Yes, Cardin should help alter dysfunctional US immigration policies.  If he won’t throw him out, but vote for the Dream Act.      

  • cwals99

    We want to wish the best for both the Dream Act and Marriage Equality.  What I hope will be a concerted effort by all these state and justice organizations to now address issues that are equally important for civil rights/liberties in Maryland.  We march through the streets shouting for workplace protections for Hispanics in their daily work.  Safety and workplace dangers, wage fraud, and being fired for illness are all illegal but widely practiced throughout Maryland and especially in Baltimore.  Whereas going to college is a good thing, these illegal actions affect families in their everyday life.

    We also recognize that a Living Wage is a must in Maryland….$14 an hour.  People cannot live with dignity and fulfill obligations of being good citizens with a double-poverty wage of $7.25.  We know that $10 would be just a step towards this.  So, Baltimore’s poor, whether black, Hispanic, or white would win from this basic civil rights bill.

    If for some reason these two bills, the Dream Act and Marriage Equality do not pass, I would hope that the Living Wage would be attached to next year’s attempt.

    • Gerald Neily

      The best way to have workplace protections is to have legal workers. Artificially high wages are a strong incentive for employers to hire illegal workers at illegal wages outside the mainstream economy, It is also a strong incentive for illegals to flee lower wages in depressed countries, and for responsible law-abiding employers to hire fewer workers overall. This is a root cause of our bad economy and high unemployment rate. (BTW The Dream Act passed yesterday.)

  • cwals99

    I am calling on all those church leaders, social justice groups, and politicians with all those hundreds of millions of dollars in ads and political promotions to now address the issue of legislating artificially high wages and treating invited guests with dignity!

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