Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz is getting some pushback from elected officials over his letter asking Gov. Hogan, state and federal lawmakers and local college administrators to protect law-abiding undocumented students from a Trump administration.
Kamanetz’s letter addressed the issue of undocumented students potentially losing protections to remain in Maryland to get an education. It wasn’t addressed to any law enforcement officials, though he did say he has already advised the chief of the Baltimore County Police Department to provide no help to immigration agents should they want to set foot on the county’s campuses to deport students once Trump takes office.
Harford County Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler felt strongly enough about Kamenetz’s public call to officials to write him a critical response. In a letter dated Tuesday, Nov. 29, Gahler wrote that he was “challenging our Governor to stop something that has not started, or even to my knowledge been promoted by our President Elect.”
He also asked Kamenetz if he would have Baltimore County join the federal 287(g) program, in which state and local law enforcement identify illegal aliens in the correctional system so that they can deported once they finish their sentences. Harford County joined the program earlier this year, agreeing to check all of its inmates’ immigration status.
Kamenetz should have Baltimore County do the same, Gahler wrote, in part because “as a neighboring county, we know that crime issues and criminals do not recognize our jurisdictional boundaries and making Baltimore County safer makes Harford County safer.”
As Gahler noted, the program is a product of the Obama administration led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and will likely continue under Donald Trump. The president-elect has pledged repeatedly while campaigning and since being elected to deport millions of immigrants from the country, beyond just inmates, most likely. Trump hasn’t specified whether that effort would target students.
Those promises have made many undocumented college students in the United States uneasy, even those who have secured permission from the government to remain here to study under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Many of them, as well as their college administrators, are concerned Trump will suspend DACA or stop granting students extensions to remain here once he takes office. In response, a handful of Maryland college presidents, as well as the state university system’s chancellor, have signed onto a petition that urges Trump to continue the program. Kamenetz’s letter on Tuesday urged lawmakers and Gov. Hogan to help protect DACA.
Gahler wasn’t the only elected official to push back at Kamenetz. Rep. Andy Harris, one of the lawmakers cc’d in his letter and the state’s only Republican U.S. House rep, wrote in a response to the county executive that he doesn’t appear to understand that federal law supersedes state and local law. He also wrote that Kamenetz should know a large contingent of Congress hopes to withhold funding of so-called “sanctuary” jurisdictions for immigrants.
“As consideration of both FY17 and FY18 federal appropriations bills loom, I hope that you reconsider your position,” Harris wrote. “Otherwise, I fear that your lack of respect for federal law may result in budgetary consequences under which hard-working Baltimore County taxpayers would suffer. Yours is a risky gambit.”
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