WASHINGTON — During a lively hearing Tuesday, Maryland’s House Judiciary Committee heard impassioned arguments over whether police should help federal authorities enforce immigration laws.
House Bill 1549 would require counties and municipalities to comply with and support the enforcement of federal immigration laws. Montgomery, Prince George’s and other Maryland counties that are accused of being so-called “sanctuary jurisdictions” decline to hold jailed-immigrants for federal immigration enforcement any longer than they would hold legal residents.
“Montgomery County is the epicenter of the sanctuary state,” testified Liz Matory of Montgomery County, “and, yes, as a black woman I am appalled by the fact that these people get more protections than other American citizens,” she said.
“I came here today with a really simple message. … I feel we need a law to force law enforcement to enforce the law,” said Ellen Paul of Rockville.
Some of the witnesses recounted in gory detail recent homicides in Montgomery County that prosecutors say were perpetrated by the Salvadoran-centric gang MS-13.
But the General Assembly has rejected the bill in the past two sessions, and there are no indications that the Democratic-controlled body plans to change direction on the matter.
“We want our immigrants who come to this country to feel included,” testified Davion Percy of the Prince George’s County Municipal Association, which represents the county’s 27 municipalities.
“There are reasons why people come to this country legally, and there are reasons why people come to this country illegally,” Percy said. “We can’t automatically assume that everyone coming to this country illegally is here to commit crimes.”
Frederick County Sheriff Charles Jenkins told the committee that Frederick County cooperates with federal immigration enforcement. Over the past decade, he said, the county has detained for federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement 556 individuals who had been in custody. The county, he said, was also involved in helping place in removal proceedings more than 1,400 who were in the U.S. illegally.
“We’ve seen a safer county because of it, and we don’t release criminals back on the streets to commit more horrific crimes,” Jenkins said.