Maryland immigrant rights activists hand the Tanton Network a decisive defeat

Despite the best (and possibly illegal) efforts of the anti-immigrant movement, the Maryland DREAM Act passed by referendum this week on election night. Thousands of undocumented youth who attended high school in Maryland will be able to continue their education alongside their peers at the university’s colleges.

NumbersUSA aired bigoted ads in the state that attempted to wedge African-Americans and immigrants. NumbersUSA has never been an ally of the African-American community; Roy Beck spoke at the 1997 national conference of the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens (CofCC), an organization that has referred to African Americans as a “retrograde species of humanity.” Beck initially denied that he spoke to the group, but was exposed when the CofCC published a picture of him at the conference. NumbersUSA frequently finds common cause (see here and here) with the promoter of one of the most draconian Voter ID laws in the country, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.

As ABC/Univision notes, this is the first time that in-state tuition for undocumented youth has passed by popular vote. Hopefully, campaigners in other states will be emboldened and willing to make their case to the public for fairness and equality in educational access.

The anti-immigrant group Help Save Maryland wound up in hot water for airing ads against in-state tuition in violation of campaign finance rules. Help Save Maryland is, of course, a state contact group for the Federation for American Immigration Reform and has long-standing relationships with the Tanton Network. In a statement released to the press, the executive director of the Maryland Democratic Party said “Marylanders deserve to know who is funding a group that is peddling lies and grossly misrepresenting the facts to influence the outcome of a ballot measure of critical importance to our state.”

A coalition of groups were instrumental in the success of the measure, they include the Maryland Catholic Conference, the Maryland State Education Association, CASA de Maryland and the Service Employees International Union. The Maryland state conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) played a decisive role in the referendum, throwing its weight behind the measure and providing a counter-narrative to the divisive arguments put forward by NumbersUSA. Count Maryland among the victories for racial justice this year.