The kick-off rally by two groups opposing the Maryland Dream Act was met with protest from a group of Hispanic students in Rockville on Aug. 8.
Members from both sides said they went to the rally, held at the Rockville Library, to counter the arguments presented about the act’s effect. The Maryland Dream Act was passed in 2011 and offers in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants who graduate from Maryland high schools.
More than a dozen people showed up at the rally with orange tape covering their mouths to protest the airing of the film “They Come to America,” a documentary on illegal immigration by Dennis M. Lynch. About 70 people packed the room to see the film and attend the rally.
“A lot of films like this don’t give a voice to those who are featured in them,” said Paola Ramirez, 22, of Germantown. “We’re here to provide that voice.”
The groups Help Save Maryland and the Maryland Society of Patriots, organizations that worked to take the Dream act to referendum, are hoping to drum up support for the November vote to bring it down.
They handed out fliers that claimed the act could cost the state as much as $17,000 per year per undocumented student.
Brad Botwin, director of Help Save Maryland said, the act, if instituted, will cost the state millions of dollars in state-supported tution and is centrally supported by the nonprofit Casa of Maryland, which supports services for low-income immigrant communities in the state. He said the film and the rally were meant to counter similar rallys held by Casa last month.
“They’re here because they’re directly impacted,” Botwin said. “It’s about them.”
Casa of Maryland Political Director Kim Propeack wrote in an email that her organization is not affiliated with the protests.
“Unfortunately, Help Save Maryland and its activists always seem to have a hard time distinguishing between people of Latino descent and frequently assume that any Hispanic they run into must be a Casa representative,” she wrote.
Several of the protesters said they were not connected to Casa. Julio Castillo, 19, of Germantown said he represented Justice for Students in America, a group working to register voters and support the Dream Act. Castillo said he is a student at Montgomery College.