Recently, Democratic Maryland lawmakers have proposed two new bills aimed at limiting the extent to which state and local authorities can enforce immigration laws. According to the Washington Post, a bill moving through the Maryland General Assembly, The Trust Act, proposes sweeping prohibitions on the ability of communities to cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The bill could potentially jeopardize federal funding and collaboration with authorities on a host of other issues.
The bills would prevent police officers from arresting individuals for immigration purposes and from complying with federal requests to hold undocumented immigrants longer than required under local guidelines. The bills are intended as a response to President Donald Trump’s executive order threatening federal funding cuts to “sanctuary” communities, places where law enforcement officials do not fully cooperate with ICE.
Delegate Marice Morales (D), the representative for Montgomery County, introduced a version of the “Trust Act” in the Maryland House of Delegates. In the Maryland Senate, Senator Victor Ramirez (D- Prince George’s County) sponsored a twin bill. The bills would bar the state, counties and cities from most communication with ICE and prohibit jurisdictions from participating in the agency’s 287(g) program, which trains police and corrections officers to assist with federal immigration enforcement.
Thirty-seven cities and counties across the country have joined the program, including Frederick and Harford Counties in Maryland, and Anne Arundel County recently applied. The Trust Act bill goes further than current immigration practices in Montgomery County, which shield most undocumented immigrants from federal authorities but allow those who commit serious crimes to be handed over.
“We are trying to make sure that people aren’t afraid to get in their car and drive and be pulled over, and be profiled, and be scared of law enforcement,” Ramirez said.
While the Trust Act bill has the joint support of Maryland’s three minority-based legislative caucuses, the Maryland Assembly may have to overcome a veto by Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (R). In 2015, Hogan announced that Maryland would notify federal immigration officials when an immigrant is scheduled for release from state jails, in compliance with the Department of Homeland Security’s Priority Enforcement Program. This was a shift from the enforcement regime under Hogan’s predecessor, Democrat Martin O’Malley.
Last month, Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett announced his opposition to the Trust Act. He claimed that the bill would make Maryland a target for tougher enforcement or even jeopardize federal decisions beneficial to the state, such as locating the FBI headquarters in Prince George’s County, Md.
According to a memo sent out to County council members, Montgomery County Attorney Marc Hansen mentioned that parts of the Trust Act were “inconsistent with current County policy”, asserting that they contradicted state laws requiring prisoner release information in existing registries for labeling sex offenders or for notifying certain victims of a release. “I want to take a responsible stand,” Montgomery County Council President Roger Berliner (D-Potomac/Bethesda) said, voicing his support for a more moderate bill.
Estimates from a 2012 Pew Research Center study listed Maryland as the 11th highest-ranked state in the total number of illegal immigrants. The state was seventh in the nation in percentage of population that was there illegally.
The data also showed that Maryland had an estimated estimated at 250,000 illegal residents and that illegal residents made up 4.3 percent of the total population, accounted for 29 percent of all immigrants in the state and comprised 6.2 percent of the state’s workforce. Children born to parents who were unauthorized residents made up 5.7 percent of all K-12 students.
Montgomery County residents have varied opinions on the proposed bills. “Bravo to the Maryland lawmakers who have the moral courage to propose bills to prevent police from arresting individuals solely for immigration enforcement,” Paula Silberberg, resident of Olney, Md., said. “Unless immigrants are found breaking the law, leave them alone!”
On the other side of the spectrum, Gary Levin of Silver Spring, Md. stated, “I’m against these bills. Federal immigration enforcement is important.”
Article by MoCo Student staff writer David Gordon of Walter Johnson High School