Prince George’s County reinforces that it won’t help ICE

The Prince George’s County Council has passed legislation declaring that agencies in the Maryland county won’t participate in immigration enforcement, a measure that could be seen as more symbolic given the county policies already in place.

County Executive Angela Alsobrooks took no position on the proposal because of existing policies for how county law enforcement deals with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“Which is, that we will not honor any civil detainers, nor will we hold anyone on a civil detainer. We believed that that addresses the issues” in the legislation, said John Erzen, Alsobrooks’ chief of staff, adding that he expects Alsobrooks to sign the bill when it comes to her desk.

The unanimous council vote approving the Act Concerning Community Inclusiveness was greeted with raucous applause Tuesday.

Among those speaking in support of the proposal before it passed was 20-year-old Jorge Benitez Perez. He said his mother, who has lived in the U.S. for 15 years with no criminal record, now has an uncertain future here because she was turned over to ICE by a county police officer.

“There’s a chance I might lose my mother, my rock, my hero,” Benitez Perez said. “Because one of your officers decided to act as an immigration enforcer, instead of the police officer, who is supposed to protect the vulnerable community members, like my mother.”

Also speaking in favor of the measure was Mount Rainier City Councilwoman Selena Benitez; Mount Rainier passed a similar law in 2017.

“It has allowed us to have more community policing taking place,” the councilwoman said. “People feel like if they see something, they could report it, and that has allowed [criminal] cases to be solved a lot faster, because now, you have eyes in the community.”

Prince George’s County Councilwoman Deni Taveras, D-District 2, hopes the measure will help foster cooperation with the 2020 census count. She said her district is 20% to 60% undercounted.

“We need to stress the importance, the urgency, with which we need to send a comforting message to the hardest to count population and the neediest population, that shows that it’s OK to work with the government,” Taveras said.

Concluding her remarks, Taveras then repeated her comments in Spanish.

Similar measures are on the books in Montgomery County, Maryland, and D.C. as “general orders” but haven’t been the subject of legislation.

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