Baltimore County Opts Not to Screen for Undocumented Immigrants in Towson Jail, for Now

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Lawmakers in Baltimore County voted last night to table a bill that would have required correctional officers in Towson to help federal authorities weed out and deport undocumented immigrants in the county jail, effectively scuttling the proposal.

The council didn’t vote “no,” but rather decided in a 5-2 split not to consider it right now. The result is the same, however, as the bill expires June 15, and the council isn’t scheduled to meet again before then.

The bill, which was co-sponsored by the council’s three Republican members, would have required the county join the federal 287(g) program, which creates cooperative agreements between local detention centers and Homeland Security’s Immigrations and Customs Enforcement to deport incarcerated, undocumented immigrants. Harford and Frederick counties have already joined the program, and Anne Arundel County has also applied to join.

If the measure were approved, Baltimore County would have joined the program as soon as June 19.

Councilman David Marks, a Republican representing an area stretching from Towson to Kingsville, said in a statement last night that he had wanted to amend the bill “to require an audit of costs and an automatic review of the program’s effectiveness by the County Council.” He also wanted to specify in the text that officers would target repeat or felony defenders. His council colleagues never took up his amendments.

Marks joined all four Democrats who voted to table it, arguing afterward that it didn’t have the five votes needed to override a veto by County Executive Kevin Kamenetz.

Kamenetz, unsurprisingly, said in a statement that he’s “glad” the council voted the way it did.

“The Republican council bill was more about bringing Donald Trump’s divisive politics to our county than doing what is best for our residents,” he said.

A prospective 2018 gubernatorial candidate, Kamenetz issued an executive order earlier this year barring county police from assisting federal agents with deportations, and from questioning or detaining anyone based on their immigration status.

CASA de Maryland, which assists immigrants and advocates for their interests, had launched a petition drive against the bill, which drew a counter-petition from supporters of joining the 287(g) program.

Despite the table vote, we could be seeing a zombie 287(g) proposal in Baltimore County sometime soon.

“A federalization of local public safety functions is a serious issue,” Marks said. “I will be working with my colleagues to see if there is a way for this legislation to be reconsidered, with a greater chance of passage.”

Ethan McLeod
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Ethan McLeod

Senior Editor at Baltimore Fishbowl
Ethan has been editing and reporting for Baltimore Fishbowl since fall of 2016. His previous stops include Fox 45, CQ Researcher and Connection Newspapers in Northern Virginia. His freelance writing has been featured in Baltimore City Paper, Leafly, DCist and BmoreArt, among other outlets. He enjoys basketball, humid Mid-Atlantic summers and story tips.
Ethan McLeod
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