Maryland may bar local law enforcement from working with ICE

FILE - In this July 8, 2019, file photo, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officer looks on during an operation in Escondido, Calif. A federal judge has prohibited U.S. immigration authorities from relying on databases deemed faulty to ask law enforcement agencies to hold people in custody, a setback for the Trump administration that threatens to hamper how it carries out arrests (AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File)(AP/Gregory Bull)
Lawmakers in Maryland are considering a bill that would prohibit any of the state’s local law enforcement agencies from entering into agreements with federal immigration enforcement.

Currently, only three counties in Maryland have formal cooperation agreements with the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency. The three sheriffs from those counties took numerous shots at jurisdictions that do not have such agreements, arguing those policies make life more dangerous for the state’s other residents.

“State and local officials cooperate with federal law enforcement in every aspect such as gun control, drug laws, working close with the FBI, the DEA … Immigration should not be an exception,” said Mike Lewis, the sheriff of Wicomico County. “Shielding criminal aliens needlessly endangers our innocent lives.”

Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins — who has had the longest running agreement with ICE — said crime is down thanks to the policy he has with ICE, while crime is going up in neighboring Montgomery County.

“Last year, Montgomery County in the late summer experienced nine rapes and sexual assaults of minor children by removable criminal aliens, most of whom had been in custody by Montgomery County, which failed to cooperate with ICE,” said Jenkins.

Over the last 12 years, Jenkins said, no immigrant detained in Frederick County and eligible for deportation has ever been released and subsequently committed another crime.

“Marylanders should be treated equally by law enforcement regardless of where they are in our state,” argued Julieta Cuellar, who works for Prince George’s County Councilwoman Deni Tavares. “Safety should not stop at the county line.”

Her point that immigration is a federal — not local — concern was echoed by other lawmakers on the panel.

“You all keep convoluting criminal activity and immigrants, and that is wrong,” said Wanika Fisher of Prince George’s County. “There’s criminal activity all over the place no matter what the status is, no matter who they are.”

She was critical of the sheriffs especially, accusing them of muddying the water to scare other members of the House Judiciary committee.

A vote on the bill will happen later in the session.

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John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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