Dueling bills aim to help illegal immigrants or to punish them

Dueling bills aim to help illegal immigrants or to punish them

Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez

By Jeremy Bauer-Wolf


ice policeState lawmakers are considering bills that would decide whether local police should help the federal government detain suspected illegal immigrants for deportation.

Two delegates from opposite parties are advocating two completely different approaches to address how extensively local law enforcement agencies should cooperate with a federal program that identifies people for deportation as soon as they are arrested.

Since 2008, local law agencies across the nation have served as an arm of Secure Communities, a federal program that results in hundreds of thousands of deportations every year, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) estimates.

Local agencies are required to participate in the program by sending fingerprints of arrestees to immigration officials, but they are not required to honor immigrant detainers issued by ICE that allow local police to hold a suspected illegal immigrant for 48 hours.

Bills would take discretion away from local police

Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez

Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez

A bill sponsored by Montgomery County Democrat Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez would prevent local government or law enforcement officials from holding suspected illegal immigrants solely on the basis of enforcing an immigrant detainer notice from ICE.

Abiding by an immigration detainer is discretionary, Gutierrez stressed during her testimony on the bill, HB 29, to the House Judiciary Committee Thursday. The bill would also prevent a judge from denying bail exclusively on the basis of an immigrant detainer.

Republican Del. Patrick McDonough,who represents Baltimore and Harford counties, is taking the opposite approach. His bill, HB 1003, would mandate law enforcement hold an illegal alien on the basis of the immigrant detainer.

As a part of Secure Communities, local police scan fingerprints upon arrest, and automatically forward them to ICE’s parent organization, the Department of Homeland Security, which checks the arrestee’s status as an illegal immigrant. Immigrant detainers issued as part of the program allow ICE time to investigate immigration status further, and can last longer than 48 hours because that limit does not include Saturdays, Sundays or holidays.

Del. Pat McDonough

Del. Pat McDonough

According to ICE’s website, Secure Communities’ mission is to weed out illegal immigrants who have committed crimes. But the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland estimated 43% of those deported since Secure Communities’ inception in Maryland had no criminal convictions.

Bills could have impact on victims reporting crimes

Gutierrez said immigrants are fearful to approach local law enforcement, anxious that because of Secure Communities, reporting a crime might cost them their residency in the country, and that they would be torn from their families.

“More and more of immigrant communities do not trust our law enforcement,” she said. “That’s the problem we’re trying to address.”

Various law enforcement leaders from Maryland’s municipalities were mixed in their support.

“When immigrants decide not to report crimes to a police department, it contributes to crimes of violence,” Baltimore Police Capt. Martin Bartness said, supporting the bill during Thursday’s hearing. “It lets offenders go free.”

In the past decade, the population of Baltimore’s Hispanic community has tripled, Bartness said. That led Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to issue an executive order in 2012 that dictated government officials and city police could not inquire about a crime victim’s or a tipper’s immigration status.

The Maryland Troopers Association objected to the Gutierrez bill, saying it would prevent troopers from doing their jobs.

“The bill requires that the law enforcement in this state ignore a federal detainer or a federal administrative warrant,” they wrote in their submitted testimony.

Not all warrants enforced by a court or ICE are criminal, which can be confusing, said Sirine Shebaya, immigrants’ rights attorney for the ACLU.

Gutierrez’s bill would not exempt those illegal immigrants with a criminal warrant, nor a civil administrative ICE warrant, which is issued when an individual is suspected of civil immigration violation. Simply being an illegal immigrant is a civil charge.

Delegate concerned pro-immigrant bill could violate the constitution, federal law

McDonough said in an interview that Gutierrez’s bill might be unconstitutional.

“We’re not just dealing with one law — Secure Communities,” he said. “We’re dealing with a multitude of laws. The proposal in essence by Del. Gutierrez is mandating the officer violate the federal law.”

Michael Bekesha, an attorney from watchdog group Judicial Watch, said his organization is backing McDonough because they support legislation in step with federal law.

McDonough criticized Maryland’s status as a “sanctuary state” for illegal immigrants.

Some Maryland law favors immigrants. In 2012, voters approved the DREAM Act, which grants in-state tuition to undocumented college students. Maryland drivers licenses may also be issued to illegal immigrants if they have filed tax returns for at least two years.

This saps resources from native residents, said McDonough, who has conducted a long crusade against illegal immigration.

“If I were an illegal, I’d have to be stupid not to come to Maryland,” he said.


  1. Dana Garcia

    Immigration is the only area of law enforcement where the lawbreaker gets to keep his ill-gotten gains (aka amnesty).

    If we want to end illegal immigration, then punishment should be the norm.

  2. Freedom1958

    “More and more of immigrant communities do not trust our law enforcement,” she said.
    I hope they’re scared witless! If they feel unsafe on our streets, perhaps they will return to their own.

  3. uglyamerican

    It’s not necessary for an illegal alien to have committed an additional offence to be eligible for deportation. But don’t tell our president that…he feels sympathy for the predicament they have put themselves into.
    The laws say that local police should assist with enforcement of Federal Immigration statues. The Justice Department has made it clear that they would rather the Immigration Laws not be enforced. Maryland risks being sued for passing any laws that restrict the freedom of foreigners to settle and colonize their state so as much good as the anti-illegal alien law would do, they would not be allowed.

  4. james

    Calling a illegal immigrant a undocumented worker is like calling a drug dealer a unlicensed pharmacist!!!!!!!

  5. Rochelle Renee

    Look. These pro-illegal alien amnesty/legalization groups need to make up their minds because they can’t have it both ways! Asking an officer to use his ‘discretion’ to determine if a detainee should be held over for ICE or not IS asking that officer to get involved with immigration laws! If this is the case, then, each state, too, has the right to get involved with immigration laws (that some courts try to tell them is a federal matter) and states like AZ and all other states should immediately initiate stricter laws to rid their states of illegal aliens who are draining their resources. If not, then, shut up and let the officers do their jobs which (in these cases) is to pass the detainees over to the agency that handles these matters as the federal detainer request trumps local police officers feelings or gut instincts about an illegal alien being held over.
    I would also like to add that an illegal alien living in someone else’s country illegally SHOULD be afraid. They are living (and existing) outside of the law and like every other outlaw, should be afraid.
    No Amnesty. No Legalization (same thing). End the willful misinterpretation of our 14th Amendment. Amp up deportations and remove ‘classifications’ of illegals as ILLEGAL IS ILLEGAL. If Mexico does not extend to the citizens of the US the exact SAME things that illegals from their country want and try to demand we extend to them…..send them all back.

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