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State and Local Leaders Push to Limit Maryland’s Relationship With ICE

Pro-immigration activists rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court. Photo by Robin Bravender.

Despite being on the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee’s voting list Monday, legislation to provide protections for and establish trust between Maryland’s undocumented residents and the state and local government did not receive a vote in time to meet the General Assembly’s crossover deadline.

Rather, the TRUST Act, sponsored by Senate Judicial Proceedings Chairman William C. Smith Jr. (D-Montgomery), will be debated in the committee — which has been historically hostile to immigrants’ rights legislation — Tuesday afternoon.

“Each year, the bill confronted opposition primarily by committee and chamber leadership in the Senate,” the immigrants rights group CASA wrote in a news release Saturday. “Meanwhile, more and more Maryland residents were swept up by outrageous acts by law enforcement agencies.”

But a series of other measures seeking to shield undocumented people from the threat of being detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have made headway at both the state and local levels.

On Monday, the House of Delegates passed House Bill 23, which would prohibit state and local government agencies from providing records or data to ICE for the purpose of civil immigration enforcement.

The debate on the House floor centered on so-called second-tier drivers’ licenses that the state issues for undocumented immigrants.

Del. Anne Healey (D-Prince George’s) said that ICE uses data from these driver’s licenses to “track down” and deport undocumented immigrants.

Del. John F. “Johnny” Mautz IV (R-Middle Shore), arguing in the bill’s opposition, insisted that the bill extends extra protections to undocumented immigrants with drivers’ licenses — noting that his driver’s license has been “accessed for other purposes.”

“I don’t have any privacy protections,” Mautz said.

“Yes, their situation is dire; yes we need to do something to help them,” he told the chamber, “but creating laws that are … skewed to favor one group over another — that’s what’s going on.”

Del. Jason C. Buckel (R-Allegany) questioned why Democrats feel that the state has the authority to reject federal immigration law.

“I simply want to encourage people to understand that we are not in Congress,” Buckel stressed. “Why we have to keep putting up blocks and roadblocks over and over and over again and bill after bill to let ICE do their job under federal law is beyond me.”

The bill’s sponsor, Del. Dana L. Stein (D-Baltimore County), countered that the bill doesn’t stop ICE from doing its job, but seeks to prohibit the agency from using routine traffic stops and data collection for the express purpose of deporting undocumented immigrants.

“This bill does not change the rules,” he said. “It’s responding to bending the rules by ICE.”

The bill passed on a vote of 84-47 — one vote shy of a veto-proof majority.

Last week, the House passed the Dignity Not Detention Act from Del. Vaughn Stewart (D-Montgomery), which would effectively end ICE contracts at three county jails in the state, and jurisdictions would be prohibited from entering into contracts with the federal agency and private prison companies down the line.

“This bill stops a depraved federal agency from paying counties and private prison companies to pick up regular Marylanders for stupid reasons and subject them to inhumane treatment,” Stewart said in a statement. “Maryland is better than ICE and its detention centers.”

“No one should profit from human misery,” he said. “Maryland should no longer be complicit in ICE’s depravity.”

The bill passed on a vote of 86-44. A cross-filed bill sponsored by Smith in the Senate has stalled in his committee.

Even if the bills from Stewart and Stein flounder in the Senate, there is movement at the local level to shift relationships with ICE.

Howard County Executive Calvin D. Ball (D) has a news conference scheduled for Tuesday morning to discuss the county department of corrections’ longstanding contract with the federal agency. The Baltimore Sun reported Monday that the county is expected to end the arrangement.

“As I’ve made clear before, it is our policy to proactively revisit and evaluate the ICE contract with the Howard County Department of Corrections,” Ball said in a statement Monday. “When we last adjusted our contract in October 2020, I promised to keep our community updated on the next steps and any actions moving forward.”

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State and Local Leaders Push to Limit Maryland’s Relationship With ICE