Md. House Passes Bill Protecting Immigrants, Which Gov. Hogan Promptly Promises to Veto

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Photo via U.S. Department of Homeland Security/Wikimedia Commons

The Maryland House of Delegates yesterday passed a measure restricting law enforcement from stopping individuals due to suspicions about their immigration status. Gov. Larry Hogan promptly said he doesn’t plan to let that bill become law.

The proposal passed by the House in an 83-55 vote yesterday would bar law enforcement at any level from asking about an individual’s immigration status during a stop, transferring them to federal Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) control “unless required under federal law,” spending money to help federal authorities deport immigrants or perform other work to help track them down. It also would call upon the state attorney general to create policies protecting immigrants and would authorize public schools, hospitals and courthouses to craft their own policies for dealing with unauthorized immigrants.

The House may have passed the bill, but their vote doesn’t preclude a veto, as it falls two votes short of the number needed to override any reversal by the governor. Shortly after their vote, Hogan issued this statement:

The Maryland House of Delegates tonight passed an outrageously irresponsible bill that will make Maryland a sanctuary state and endanger our citizens. This legislation would interfere with our state and local law enforcement’s ability to cooperate with federal law enforcement authorities. I will veto this dangerously misguided legislation the moment that it reaches my desk.

The issue of so-called “sanctuary” status for immigrants has flared up since Donald Trump took office as president in January, promising to deport millions of people living in the United States without authorization. In the Baltimore area, Democratic elected officials like Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and Howard County Councilman Calvin Ball made public calls to protect their jurisdictions’ immigrants shortly after Trump became president.

Their statements and actions prompted backlash from Republican officials like Hogan and Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman, who have argued such protections interfere with the ability of law enforcement to do their job. They also argue sanctuary measures are a liability because federal policymakers could withhold funds for jurisdictions that don’t comply with federal orders, as Maryland Republican Rep. Andy Harris threatened to Kamenetz late last year.

These threats aren’t merely posturing. President Donald Trump issued an executive order days after assuming office that ordered that exact punishment for jurisdictions not complying with federal orders. Soon after, he instructed ICE to ramp up raids to remove more undocumented immigrants around the United States.

In Baltimore, where ICE agents have recently removed undocumented immigrants from their communities, lawmakers have made efforts to protect the undocumented. Last night, the City Council unanimously voted to adopt a resolution sponsored by Councilman Zeke Cohen that asks federal agents to treat immigrants in a more humane way and work with them, rather than forcibly uprooting them.

Trump’s administration notably called out Baltimore in a report released by ICE yesterday that lists jurisdictions that have declined to issue ICE detainers for arrestees. The report lists a Mexican immigrant detained on a drug trafficking charge as an example of a “sample crime”; the city denied his ICE detainer on Feb. 1, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

Del. Marice Morales of Montgomery County sponsored the bill that moved through the Maryland House and onto the state senate yesterday. “This bill is about the constitutional rights of all Marylanders,” she said.

Negotiations on her bill carved out exceptions for Frederick and Harford counties, which already participate in the federal 287(g) program in which their corrections officer are trained to perform the work of federal immigration agents by identifying those eligible for deportation. ICE has 287(g) program agreements with 37 law enforcement agencies in 16 states, two of them in Maryland.

The Senate hasn’t yet considered an identical version of Morales’ bill. Even if it does escape committee and pass in a full vote, it will most likely meet a fate similar to that of Howard County’s recently departed sanctuary proposal, which Kittleman vetoed in February.

Ethan McLeod
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