Opinion: End Md.’s Partnership With ICE Once and For All

ICE
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement photo/ice.gov.

For nearly a decade, CASA, ACLU of Maryland, advocates and hundreds of immigrant families across the state have fought to end Maryland’s partnership with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. After years of little movement in the General Assembly, Maryland lawmakers are in a greater position than ever to pass the Trust Act this session.

Black and Latinx immigrants across Maryland live in fear of being unlawfully arrested, detained, separated from their families, and deported because of the cruel policies of state and local law enforcement.

Roxana Santos was racially profiled by police in Frederick and turned over to ICE because they claimed she was eating her sandwich “suspiciously” during her work break. Sara Medrano was stopped by Frederick deputies because of a “broken” taillight that turned out to be working fine. They questioned her immigration status then tried to detain her for ICE. Eddy, who is from Guatemala and for safety concerns chooses not to use his last name, was detained by local police after he was stranded on the side of the road with a blown-out tire. “I believed the police officer was going to help me, but it wasn’t like that,” Eddy said. “He asked for my identification and soon he called ICE.”

All Marylanders must be empowered to fully participate in society, have their constitutional rights respected, and be able to live freely, regardless of citizenship or legal status. No Marylander should face the racial discrimination that immigrants of color have faced at the hands of local police.

Stories of Marylanders like Roxana, Sara, and Eddy have reverberated through communities, making it harder for immigrant families to trust law enforcement.

Passing the Trust Act, which would prevent our local police from racially profiling and carrying out federal immigration enforcement against Marylanders, is a necessary step. Maryland legislators have already proven that they support immigrants in our community by granting stimulus aid to immigrants who are undocumented.

Let us now take this next step to underscore that Maryland supports immigrants, values them as members of our communities, depends on their contributions and commits to keeping them safe.

The Trust Act is not only the top priority of the Maryland Legislative Latino Caucus, but also backed by the Legislative Black Caucus, and the Asian-American and Pacific Islander Caucus. Their support illustrates the growing solidarity with immigrants across our state. Now, sponsored by the chairman of the Judicial Proceedings Committee and with the support of the Senate President, the General Assembly is in an ideal position to move it forward.

Earlier this month there was overwhelming support for the Trust Act during the House Judiciary Committee hearing.

The opposition was led by a small number of individuals and groups using racist language and advocating for racially discriminatory policies. One of the national groups, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, has been designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. They were heard not only scapegoating immigrants, calling them “illegal aliens” and dangerous criminals, but disparaging the dignity of Marylanders without any regard for their contribution to society, their personal stories, their safety and, most importantly, their humanity.

Here in Maryland, Frederick County Sheriff Charles Jenkins has avidly opposed the Trust Act. He has also been on record calling recipients of the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals “hardcore gangbangers.” In recent years, he was successfully sued twice when deputies under his leadership unlawfully targeted and racially profiled Latinx people. Even U.S. citizens have been swept up in their racist dragnet.

In recent Judicial Proceedings Committee discussion, we heard senators express xenophobic and anti-China rhetoric, and attempt to tie immigrants to 9/11 hijackers.

Marylanders must not align themselves with individuals and groups that continue racist language and actions that negatively impact Black and Latinx Marylanders. It is a step backward. In 2021, we must move forward. With overwhelming support across Maryland, veto-proof majorities, and much of the opposition blatantly racist or tied to white supremacist organizations, passing the Trust Act should be uncomplicated.

Parents who are immigrants only want to stay with their children and work in the community. Immigrant children dream of growing up and going to college in Maryland. Families will see the difference in their lives when local police stop targeting, detaining and traumatizing their loved ones.

We call on Maryland legislators to act with urgency. Let us achieve a better Maryland for Black and Latinx immigrants. Pass the Trust Act now.

— GUSTAVO TORRES AND DANA VICKERS SHELLEY

The writers are, respectively, executive director of CASA and executive director of the ACLU of Maryland.