ANNAPOLIS — The concerns of Maryland’s immigrant communities were aired Tuesday evening in hearings for two Senate bills reflecting opposite views on the roles state and county lawmakers should play in federal immigration enforcement.
As the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee hearings were held, news alerts detailing new guidance for stricter immigration enforcement from the Trump administration trickled into the hearing room.
Frederick County Sen. Michael Hough’s bill would require state or local correctional facilities that are notified by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that an inmate is subject to an immigration detainer to give Homeland Security at least 72 hours’ notice before the person is scheduled to be released.
The bill would also let correctional facilities hold inmates up to an additional 48 hours to allow Homeland Security to take them into custody.
At the same hearing, the committee considered the Maryland Law Enforcement and Governmental Trust Act from Sen. Victor Ramirez, a Prince George’s County Democrat. That bill aims to do the opposite of Hough’s bill, spelling out explicitly that local governments would not take part in federal immigration enforcement.
Ramirez’s bill includes language from “sanctuary community” policies that would require the state to attempt to limit immigration enforcement at public schools, hospitals and courthouses.
The bill hearings, held back-to-back, led to sharp exchanges between lawmakers and advocates for both of the measures.
Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins (R) testified in favor of Hough’s bill.
“This very simple common sense bill will vastly reduce, if not eliminate, the risk to any Marylander being the victim of a violent crime, or any fatal or serious vehicle crash by a convicted criminal alien who should not be walking our streets,” Jenkins wrote in a statement for the committee.
Other county sheriffs testified in favor of the bill, including those from Carroll, Harford and Wicomico counties.
Jenkins faced tough questions from committee members, including Sen. Robert Zirkin, D-Baltimore County.
The Frederick County Sheriff’s Office already has partnerships with the federal government, including the 287(g) program, which is named after a section of federal immigration law. The partnership lets trained deputies and correctional officers perform certain functions of immigration enforcement under oversight from the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Since 2008, Frederick County has placed 1,444 ICE detainers on jail inmates; 1,299 of those inmates were placed into immigration proceedings by ICE.
Zirkin openly questioned whether local authorities — as required in Hough’s bill — should play a greater role in supporting such detainers when Trump administration officials said Tuesday they would expand immigration enforcement beyond targeted groups such as serious criminal offenders.
He was concerned that a person might be stopped for a traffic violation, arrested, questioned, become the subject of an ICE detainer and held in jail for up to two days for a relatively minor offense.
“The political winds seem to be changing right now. ... I think you’ve got to be a little bit concerned that what we’re talking about is not exactly a rapist or murderer anymore,” Zirkin said.
Under Hough’s bill, state and local correctional facilities would honor Homeland Security detainers the same way they would honor detainers from other federal agencies, such as the FBI or Drug Enforcement Administration.
Opponents argued that Homeland Security detainers are often civil, and not criminal.
Advocacy groups aligned themselves in similar positions in favor or against the two bills.
The Maryland Chiefs of Police Association and Maryland Sheriffs’ Association and other law enforcement representatives opposed Ramirez’s bill, which attracted the most testimony of the day.
His measure is supported by groups including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Maryland State Education Association, the Maryland Catholic Conference and the General Assembly’s black, Latino, and Asian-American and Pacific-Islander caucuses.
Some committee members questioned whether Ramirez’s bill took protections too far, including into unrealized hypotheticals such as government databases on members of certain religions. Other members remained strongly in support.
“I am frightened, given what I have lived through in the past, about what might happen in the future. ... What we are talking about now is not implausible at all,” said Democratic Sen. Delores G. Kelley, an 80-year-old black woman from Baltimore County who recalled the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.
Ramirez’s bill is co-sponsored by Frederick County Sen. Ron Young, D-District 3, and four other members of the 11-member Judicial Proceedings Committee.