Friday, August 19, 2011

Court Deals Blow to GOP Dream Act Opponents in Montgomery College Case

Yesterday, Montgomery College officials alerted the public to an August 16 Circuit Court decision dismissing a lawsuit brought by the conservative group Judicial Watch. The organization sued the college's Board of Trustees last January, "for unlawfully giving illegal aliens in-state tuition benefits." At issue was Montgomery College's practice of granting in-county tuition rates to graduates of county high schools, regardless of their immigration status.

When it is not fighting affordable higher education, Judicial Watch releases lists like their annual "Ten Most Wanted Corrupt Politicians." Last year's winners included President Obama and Senator Barbara Boxer, along with Representatives Nancy Pelosi and Barney Frank.

In any case, the lawsuit appears to have been part of a nationwide blitz of activity by Judicial Watch. According to the "Sanctuary Busters" website:

"Public officials have not only repeatedly failed to protect our borders from this illegal alien invasion, but they have also been complicit in the effort to undermine our nation's immigration laws by implementing so-called 'sanctuary policies' for illegal aliens.... For this reason, Judicial Watch has launched a nationwide campaign to enforce our nation's immigration laws."
Montgomery College's press release reported that "the court dismissed the case on the grounds that the plaintiffs did not have the legal right to sue under the statutes they asserted." Judicial Watch filed the lawsuit on behalf of Montgomery County residents Michael Lee Philips, Patricia Fenati, and David Drake. It is not surprising that the case was dismissed like this, as the plaintiffs complaint appears to have relied on taxpayer standing, which is described by Wikipedia as follows:
"Taxpayer standing is the concept that any person who pays taxes should have standing to file a lawsuit against the taxing body if that body allocates funds in a way that the taxpayer feels is improper."
That's a very realistic way to govern.

Notably, two of the three local plaintiffs attached to the case were 2010 Republican candidates for public office. Philips ran for Congress in District 8 and Fenati ran for State House in District 14. Meanwhile, Drake is a leader in Americans for Prosperity, an operation funded by the Koch family (financiers of global warming skepticism).

This opening battle sets the stage for the larger Dream Act showdown to come. Governor O'Malley signed the bill into law last May, granting in-state tuition benefits to Maryland's undocumented high school students. But note that attendance at a community college is a requirement for Dream Act eligibility, so this week's Circuit Court decision keeps the door open for that first step toward an affordable college degree.

The issue ultimately appears headed for the ballot in 2012. As the Washington Post noted, in an editorial:
OPPONENTS OF Maryland’s Dream Act — the law that would grant in-state tuition discounts to undocumented immigrants provided they attend a Maryland high school and they or their parents pay taxes — appear to have gathered well over 100,000 petition signatures. Barring judicial intervention or other unforeseen twists, that’s more than enough to suspend the law’s implementation and put it up for a referendum on the 2012 ballot.

Will Maryland voters do the right thing in 2012?

P.S. Please respect my wishes to not bring discussions about the invasion of American into the comments. You can apparently engage in that at the Sun's website if you really feel the need!

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