The Prince George’s County Council unanimously approved legislation Tuesday that will ensure local law enforcement doesn’t work alongside Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents to detain residents for non-criminal incidents.
Dozens of residents, community leaders and other supporters of the act held signs that simply said, “Yes to CB-62.”
“Hopefully, we can spread the message to provide this kind of legislation throughout the state,” said Councilwoman Deni Taveras (D-District 2) of Adelphi, who sponsored the legislation. “We need to stress the urgency with which to send a comforting message that shows it’s OK to work with the government.”
Part of the legislation states: “No agent or agency may require persons to prove their citizenship status, country of origin, or information related to their immigration status in the United States. Agents may not request identification for the sole purpose of determining a person’s immigration status.”
Before the council voted 11-0, several people told short stories on how it would bring distrust with police.
Jorge Benitez-Perez of Chillum immigrated to the United States 15 years ago as a 5-year-old boy from El Salvador with his younger brother and mother, Maria Perez, who left an abusive husband.
Last year, a county police officer pulled over Perez for speeding in Hyattsville. Benitez-Perez told the council Tuesday the police officer turned his mother over to ICE agents in Laurel.
Lawyers stepped in and she remains in the county. However, Benitez-Perez said his mother has a hearing in March 2021 and a judge will decide whether she can remain in Prince George’s or is deported back to El Salvador.
“She has no criminal record. She’s raised me and my brother the right way,” said Benitez-Perez, 20, a student at Prince George’s Community College studying political science. “Nobody believed this was happening to my mom. I’m glad this legislation passed so no one else will have to go through this.”
Former state Sen. Victor Ramirez also gave testimony. He presented similar legislation two years ago in Annapolis, but didn’t pass.
“What [Benitez-Perez] did showed a lot of courage. He should be enjoying college, but he is worried about his mother being deported and could drastically change his life,” Ramirez said. “There’s no new [state] leadership. I hope the General Assembly will say, ‘It’s time to pass something that protects every one of our residents from being harassed.”
In other business, the council approved legislation on non-compostable straws and stirrers with an agreeable amendment from Councilman Tom Dernoga.
Instead of an outright ban on straws, retailers and restaurants can sell and provide them for those with physical or medical needs.
A business can sell items that are “home compostable,” which means they are biodegradable.
“This was complex and a good learning experience,” Dernoga said. “The thing that I walk away from this is we have the retailers and the Sierra Club supporting the bill. Something turned out OK.”
Before the nearly all-day session began Tuesday, the council confirmed several appointments, including Major Riddick Jr. as chief administrative officer.
One notable person came to offer his support for Riddick: former Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III.
“There are very few things that would get me to move out of my house to go anywhere these days,” he said. “I want somebody who understands the county and the state and the budget to be advising my county executive. It is purely for a selfish reason, Major, that I stand here. My wife and I ain’t going nowhere. This is our county and we want the best for it.”