Maryland Graduation Rates Improve Due to DREAM Act
In the absence of comprehensive immigration reform through federal legislation, states have had to take the matter of undocumented immigrants who entered the country while minors into their own hands. One of the first states to take up the issue was the state of California, which under their own version of the DREAM act provides such individuals with access to public and private higher education within the state. Other states have acted too, including Maryland, which enacted its own version of the DREAM act in 2012. Although the bill provides many of the same benefits as the federal legislation currently stalled in Congress, it is, as one might expect, much more limited in its applications and scope.
That being said, one of the most immediate effects of the Maryland DREAM act that has been seen is in the rise in graduation rates within the state. According to the Baltimore Sun, the state-wide graduation rate for the academic year ending in June 2013 rose nearly one percent from the year before to 84.97%. School officials in the state were quick to credit the Maryland DREAM act for the bump in the graduation rate. They pointed out that over that academic year the graduation rate for Hispanics in the state rose nearly 2.5% beating the average across the state in general.
According to the Baltimore Sun, the Maryland state school superintendent, Lillian Lowery, credits the Maryland DREAM act for the tremendous bump in the state’s overall graduation rate. She says that the access it provides undocumented immigrants to higher education through in-state tuition has given hope where there previously was none. The success that the state of Maryland has seen since adopting its own version of the DREAM act is proof that there’s a need for action at the federal level.
The Federal Government’s DREAM Act
The DREAM act has been kicking around the United States Congress in one form or another since 2001. Back then, it was introduced by Luis Gutiérrez as the “Immigrant Children’s Educational Advancement and Dropout Prevention Act of 2001”. Although Rep. Gutiérrez found support for the bill, through different modifications and wrangling within Congress, the bill ultimately failed to pass.
Action on this front was quiet for many years while Congress remained in Republican hands. However, the issue began to come back to the surface as early as 2007, when Richard Durbin attempted to pass an updated version of the original DREAM act. Although the bill made its way to the floor of the Senate, it ultimately could not make it past a Republican-led filibuster.
Most recently, the issue was taken up in 2010. However, much like before, the DREAM act fell upon hard times. Even though it received more bipartisan support than it ever had in the past, the bill was ultimately blocked again in the Senate, when it could not acquire enough votes to pass a potential filibuster.
The Obama Administration Takes Action
With Congress failing to act on the issue, the Obama administration decided to do what it could unilaterally. President Obama directed U.S. immigration officials to defer deporting undocumented immigrants who had entered the country before they reached the age of 16 for two years. This unilateral action on the President’s part is called DACA or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Although it has had some benefits and has made it easier for some undocumented immigrants to pursue higher education and find work throughout the United States, it is ultimately not as comprehensive as a passed version of the federal DREAM act would be. So, until that happens, it falls upon states like Maryland to take action into their own hands and to find success by doing so.