As harsh enforcement actions of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) make daily news, more Frederick County residents want to know about the sheriff’s office’s ICE immigration enforcement program. They will have an opportunity to hear and to present their concerns at the sheriff’s office’s annual 287(g) Steering Committee meeting, June 13, at 7 p.m. at Winchester Hall. The sheriff’s office’s 2016 MOA with ICE states under the Outreach section, “it will, as necessary, engage in Steering Committee meetings ... ICE may participate in such outreach upon FCSO’s request.”
But ICE, the invitee to the meeting, has announced that no taping or video recording of the meeting is allowed. Community stakeholders unable to attend the meeting are shut out. A recent request to televise and tape the 287(g) Steering Committee Meeting was denied. Vivian Laxton, director of county communications, explained that the June 13 meeting is sponsored by ICE, not the sheriff or the county, and ICE will not allow any recording of the meeting. This is contrary to a reading of the 2016 agreement.
The purpose of the Steering Committee Meeting is community outreach, as stated in the MOA. The 2017 Steering Committee Meeting began with the sheriff’s office’s PowerPoint presentation of the Meetings Mission Statement: to (1. Demonstrate program oversight and direction; (2) Identify issues and concerns regarding immigration enforcement activities; (3) Offer community stakeholders opportunities to communicate community-level perspectives.
Missing from the 2017 Mission Statement was an item (3) “Increase Transparency” that appears in the 2015 Mission Statement.
ICE’s refusal to permit live streaming/taping of the Steering Committee Meeting runs counter to the former statements about expanding transparency. Does ICE want to shut out most residents as it revs up enforcement against immigrants in the U.S. illegally? This action comes at a time of public outrage from many sectors over its separation of children from their parents at the border and its director declaring all immigrants who cross the border without documents are criminals.
The sheriff’s office should conduct the meeting and set the rules. It is responsible for the 287(g) public meeting. Transparency requires permitting taping and televising to ensure that the discussion of this program funded by taxpayers be widely available to them. Open meeting laws support this practice and most public meetings are televised.
There is much at stake for the county as it again considers the merits of the sheriff’s office‘s immigration enforcement program at its annual Steering Committee Meeting. Its usefulness has to be weighed against its use of local resources. In recent budget hearings, the sheriff’s office requested more deputies. However, limiting access to that discussion for Frederick County citizens by ICE, a federal government agency, at a meeting in Winchester Hall is disturbing and outrageous and possibly illegal.
Mary Ann Ford
The RISE Coalition of Western Maryland — Resources for Immigrant Services and Empowerment