Maryland, Montana Decide on Immigration Issues

Maryland became the first state to give undocumented immigrants in-state tuition by popular vote, leaving Sarita Santillan and thousands of Free State residents like her ecstatic. 

"We were hoping for the best," said the 20-year-old Santillan, a native of Peru who grew up in Maryland. "Then most of us just started crying," she explained as she and a group of friends watched poll results flow in Tuesday night. "We were very happy."

The measure had 59 percent of the vote with 97 percent of precincts reporting.

Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat and a big supporter of the Maryland Dream Act, stopped by a Mexican restaurant in Baltimore where Santillan and about 30 other undocumented students had gathered to wait for the results. Advocates have said that giving these students an opportunity to further their education benefits the state, because can got on to become professionals. Santillan, an engineering student at Baltimore Community College, said she plans to transfer to a four-year institution after she completes her associate's degree, likely in a year.  

Maryland was one of two states considering immigration-related ballot measures. The second was in Montana, where Hispanics comprise 3.1 percent of the state's 998,199 residents, according to recent census data.

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Big Sky voters approved a measure to require individuals to show proof of citizenship to obtain certain state-issued services, such as unemployment benefits, disability benefits, or scholarships, according to the Great Falls Tribune.

Marriage equality was on the ballot in four states: Maine, Maryland, Washington, and Minnesota. In Maryland, the immigrant and gay communities joined forces, citing overlapping civil-rights issues.

Here's a roundup of other ballot measures and initiatives that most affect communities of color. The nation's leading legal Hispanic organization, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, highlighted a dozen of them in seven key states.