Senate panel considers bill to create a Delaware DREAM Act

Delaware lawmakers have begun consideration of a bill that would allow the children of undocumented immigrants to qualify for in-state tuition rates at institutions of higher learning.


The measure known as the DREAM Act was debated before the Senate Education Committee in Dover Wednesday. Senator Robert Marshall (D-Wilmington), the sponsor of the legislation, said it addresses problems that face many students whose parents may have brought them into the country at a very early age. Marshall said many of these young people lack the necessary documentation, such as a Social Security number, to apply for college scholarships.

“We have gone through successive waves of immigration,” Marshall said, adding that many groups of immigrants had faced prejudice and bigotry. “But, Americans are fair-minded people.”

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Delaware now has programs known as SEED and Inspire that make access more affordable for students at high schools in the state to attend the University of Delaware, Delaware State University or Delaware Technical and Community College.

Among those testifying in support of the bill was Maria Matos, Executive Director of Wilmington’s Latin American Community Center. “These are students that we need in this state,” Matos said, adding that many of them maintain very high grade-point averages.

Meanwhile, Steve Wode of Bethany Beach said lawmakers should wait until the national problem of immigration is resolved – something Marshall said federal officials and lawmakers have been unwilling to do.

There were not enough members of the committee in attendance Wednesday to allow the bill to move forward. Marshall said he will continue to pursue votes.

Minium wage also on the agenda

The House Economic Development Committee voted against releasing legislation that would increase Delaware’s minimum wage by 50-cents in 2013, and by 50-cents again in 2014.

Representative Michael Mulrooney (D-Pennwood) said that if the salaries of minimum-wage workers goes up, “this money goes right back into the economy. However, Representative Michael Ramone (R-New Castle said hiking the minimum wage would diminish job opportunities for young people in particular, and that it does not address seasonal work such as lifeguards.

Representative Helene Keeley (D-Wilmington) said many people making minimum wage also utilize services such as food stamps and Medicaid. Delaware State Chamber of Commerce Vice President of Government Affairs Richard Heffron also said the timing was just not right to raise the minimum wage. In terms of the economy, “we’re still digging out of a hole,” Heffron said.

Committee members voted 8-to-3 against releasing the bill, which had been previously approved in the Senate.

Delaware’s current minimum wage is $7.25 per hour.

What is a sheriff?

A bill that would clarify rights and responsibilities of Delaware’s three elected county sheriffs and their deputies has now been stricken, after what the sponsor called “apparent political gamesmanship.”

Representative Daniel Short (R-Seaford) said Wednesday he was striking the bill from consideration just weeks after it was introduced.

The measure was proposed after issues developed in Susssex County, where the sheriff had been seeking arrest powers for himself and his deputies. Short asked the House Administration Committee to table the legislation in early April, but had the bill stricken Wednesday when it appears on the agenda of the House Administration Committee – “not at my request,” short said.

“It is my opinion that there was an attempt to take control of this issue from me, as the prime sponsor of the bill, by having it placed on the committee agenda,” Short said. “The only right course of action was to strike the bill and prevent any further political stunts from happening.”

The Delaware Attorney General’s Office had requested state lawmakers develop legislation to codify what is believed to be the intent of the Delaware Code and to specifically prohibit the sheriff and deputies from carrying out police powers.

“Sussex County continues to support any measure that would help clarify the issues surrounding Delaware sheriffs and their authority,” Sussex County Administrator Todd Lawson said. “The issue over the role of the sheriff and his deputies remains in limbo, and it will continue to put our citizens and the taxpayers at risk for liability as long as it remains unresolved.”

Short said he would introduce a house concurrent resolution to address the issue within a few days.

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