ANNAPOLIS — Blacks, Asians, Native Americans and Latinos stood at a podium Monday inside the Maryland House of Delegates with a collective message: detaining people because they are different isn’t the American way.
Delegates passed legislation two weeks ago that would restrict law enforcement officials from detaining a person and inquiring about immigration or citizenship status during a stop, search or arrest.
Additionally, detainees cannot be transferred to federal immigration authorities unless require by federal law.
Del. Carlo Sanchez (D-District 47B) of Langley Park and head of the state’s Legislative Latino Caucus, said the state’s legislation wouldn’t interfere with the federal programs.
“We continue to see cases of people being stopped and questioned just on the merit of them looking like they may not belong in this country,” he said after the press conference. “I’ve been all over this state and I’ve yet to see what exactly someone looks like who doesn’t belong in Maryland.”
The bill, formally named “Criminal Procedure – Immigration – Community Trust,” also prohibits authorities from knowingly using state money to create a database and provide information to federal and officials from another state “for the purpose of discrimination against individuals on the basis of religion, race, gender, sexual orientation, immigration status, or national or ethnic origin.”
The state received national attention March 16 after two students, one of whom police said is in the country illegally, raped a teen inside a Rockville high school.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has criticized Maryland and other jurisdictions that allow illegal immigrants to reside. He also said federal money wouldn’t be distributed to states, counties and cities who pass laws and make them a sanctuary area.
Gov. Larry Hogan threatened to veto legislation passed by the Senate because it wouldn’t allow state authorities to assist the federal Immigration and Custom Enforcement.
Authorities in Harford and Frederick counties are exempt from the state legislation because of the counties’ participation in the federal program known as 287(g), which allows state and local law enforcement agencies to assist ICE.
Sheriffs from the two counties spoke at a press conference about an hour earlier outside at Lawyer’s Mall in Annapolis.
Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins said in nine years, more than 2,000 people have been arrested and later determined to be in the country illegally. Some of the crimes he outlined included murder, distribution of drugs and rape of a child.
“This is not about race or ethnicity. This is about the rule of law and enforcing the law,” he said. “We have to separate immigration from illegal immigration and look at the criminality involved in the illegal side of it. This is to create safer communities.”
Inside the House, Del. Cheryl Glenn of Baltimore, who chairs the Legislative Black Caucus, stood alongside advocates holding signs that read “We trust you to support the Trust Act” and “Community policing needs trust.”
State Sen. Susan Lee of Montgomery County, a third-generation Chinese-American, called it “un-American” to allow racial profiling of immigrants.
“We don’t want to destroy decades of trust that has developed between the police and immigrant community,” said Lee, who chairs the Legislative Asian-American and Pacific-Islander Caucus. “This is America. Immigrants of all colors and background built this country. We should live in a country where we feel our rights will be protected.”