Now a few weeks settled into his new job as Anne Arundel County executive, Steuart Pittman made one of his first major moves today by announcing the cancellation of Anne Arundel County’s 287(g) program with the federal government.
Pittman, who unseated Republican Steve Schuh during the November election, made the call after examining data from the county’s partnership with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. He cited a newly released report that he ordered, which found that since December 2017, county detention officers had questioned 69 already-detained, foreign-born people who were here on expired visas or without documentation. None had actually been turned over to ICE, since they already had to serve time in prison and could not yet be deported, the report said.
“The data speaks loud and clear—287(g) does not help make Anne Arundel County safer,” Pittman said in a statement. “Our county detention staff should be focusing on local law enforcement responsibilities rather than furthering controversial federal immigration policy.”
Under 287(g), local corrections officers can receive training from ICE to interrogate suspected undocumented immigrants, serve immigration-related warrants, collect evidence, fingerprint people, prep charging documents, issue detainers and transport detainees to ICE-approved facilities. Schuh had Anne Arundel County enter into such an agreement with the feds last summer, joining Frederick and Harford counties as the only Maryland jurisdictions taking part in the program.
A spokesman for Schuh said at the time, “We’re here to help the federal government enforce federal law. That’s an appropriate role for the county.”
His administration also signed a $1.7 million contract, benefiting the county, that allows ICE to house detainees at the Ordnance Road Correction Center in Glen Burnie.
But Pittman campaigned on a platform of dissolving the deal, saying he wanted to close the Ordnance Road immigrant detention center and open a drug rehab facility there instead. And during his inauguration speech on Dec. 3, he said the county would “kiss [287(g)] goodbye” after putting together a report on its impact over the previous 18 months.
It now appears he’ll only be following through on half of that platform. He plans to keep the ICE detention center in place, citing feedback from local pastors and immigration lawyers who have said “conditions there are more humane than where these individuals would be sent if we were to close it,” per a release sent out today. Pittman himself visited the immigrant detention center on Dec. 26.
“After touring the facility I am impressed with the professionalism and dedication of the staff and I admire the serious responsibility they take to uphold our values and ensure every person in their custody is treated humanely,” he said in a statement. “It is clear to me that those individuals are better off here than somewhere else.”
ICE can keep up to 130 immigrants there as part of its agreement with the county, which receives $118 per day per detainee from the federal government. So far, that’s come out to more than $4 million for Anne Arundel County over 13 months.
The report released by Pittman’s office noted Schuh’s administration never offered any direction for where those funds should go, appropriations-wise. He’s now planning to direct the money toward detention center staffing, public safety and legal representation for immigrant detainees in his 2020 budget.
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