by Rev. Paul W Johnson, co-chair AIM, for the Baltimore Sun

August 5, 2011


Regarding the recent article about the lawsuit over the Maryland Dream Act ("Vote on tuition bill faces lawsuit," Aug. 2), I believe democracy should be upheld.

I was one of hundreds in attendance when the law was heavily debated in the State House. Over the last year, Maryland Industrial Areas Foundation has committed itself to true grassroots organizing and building a diverse base of African-American, Caribbean Americans, Latinos, and others who support the law. Our organizing culminated when we turned out a multitude of diverse supporters to witness the passage of the tuition bill in April. I'll never forget the rainbow of faces, both immigrant and American-born, unified on that day.

The lawsuit alleges that attorneys and volunteers who conducted a "painstaking line-by-line" review of signatures and found they "fell far short." I believe this case must be heard. It would be a tragedy for our democracy if a small group of people were to overturn a hard-fought and won victory for young children of immigrants.

However, as I hold one eye to the lawsuit, I will put the rest of my energies toward organizing a strong constituency in the event of a 2012 ballot initiative. The Maryland IAF has experience in doing successful referendum campaigns. We were a major player on the statewide handgun campaign in 1988. And across the nation, the Industrial Areas Foundation is known for our ability to mobilize large numbers of people. Organizing people power is what we do well. We did so in order to build the multi-racial support to help ensure the passage of the Dream Act. We will do so again in order to make sure that the law prevails.

Rev. Paul W. Johnson, Takoma Park

The writer is pastor of Grace United Methodist Church in Takoma Park and co-chair of Action in Montgomery (AIM).

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