New York State Youth Leadership Council

Giving More Than Taking


May 11


Maryland’s Dream Act and the Undocumented as Taxpayers

Maryland’s General Assembly passed its own version of the Dream Act, which Gov. Martin O’Malley pledged to sign into law, making this state the 11th in the nation to offer in-state tuition to undocumented students.

To be eligible under Maryland’s Dream Act, students must have graduated from a state high school after attending it for at least three years, and must complete two years at a community college before they qualify for in-state tuition at one of the state’s public universities.

Additionally, to be eligible, students must provide state income tax returns for themselves or their parents showing they paid taxes for at last three years while the student attended high school, among other criteria. (To see full eligibility requirements, please follow this link.)

According to Bowie Patch, The Department of Legislative Services, “a nonpartisan research center for the state legislature, estimated it would cost Maryland taxpayers $778,000 in fiscal year 2014 and up to $3.5 million in fiscal 2016 to subsidize the tuition rate undocumented students would receive.”

Which brings me to my point: undocumented students and workers are Maryland taxpayers too.

Unfortunately, more often than not, specific wording is used to make it look like undocumented students are piggyback riding on taxpayer money by being handed free educational benefits. This is simply not true.

There are several ways the undocumented pay taxes, state and federal.

Like everybody else, undocumented students and workers must pay state sales taxes- a #win for the state in sales tax revenues. And those who are homeowners pay property taxes in the state where they reside as well.

Also, those undocumented students and workers who are self-employed may pay their individual self-employment taxes with an individual tax identification number (ITIN) issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

And if they are on their employer’s payroll, whether they listed a fake social security number, passed an ITIN as a SSN, or listed a 000-00-000 as their social, undocumented students and workers pay federal income taxes, Medicare, and Social Security taxes. On the other end, their employer pays all those taxes plus unemployment taxes to the federal government on each one of those workers. Because these workers are not eligible to receive Medicare, Social Security, and unemployment benefits, this money can be spent on eligible taxpayers’ benefits or other programs. (A revenue #win for Uncle Sam.)

Some articles fail to say that many, if not most, undocumented youth work and pay taxes. Maybe it’s the word count limit journalists must abide to, or maybe the fact is purposely omitted to give the story the desired angle.

Whatever the motivations behind this omission may be, every time you read a story on how state or federal taxpayers will foot a bill to offer undocumented students affordable higher education, remember that undocumented students and workers are taxpayers too.

Unfortunately, many undocumented youth buy into the idea that they are undeserving of certain rights and privileges because they earn low wages and pay lower taxes. If you read something that brought you down in this way, ask yourself a few questions:
• Did the article mention that an educated workforce brings higher tax revenues to the state and federal governments?
• Did the report address that part of the state’s tax revenue comes from undocumented workers in the form of income taxes, property taxes, and sales taxes?
• Did the report address contributions, such as how the state’s representation on the federal level increased from counting the undocumented as residents of that state?
• Did they factor in the higher federal grants the state will receive from the federal government because of this higher population count?

If the story didn’t mention these things, don’t feel bad, guilty, or ashamed because it is incomplete and needs to be seen as such. Remember, economic studies consistently show that the undocumented give more than they take.