Md. sheriffs oppose proposed ‘sanctuary state' bill

- A pair of Maryland’s top sheriffs are blasting the state’s General Assembly about a bill being considered by lawmakers in Annapolis which they say will create a “sanctuary state” for illegal immigrants. While Gov. Larry Hogan is promising a veto if the bill hits his desk, law enforcement officials warn that some damage may have already been done with Maryland now at the center of the sanctuary debate.

This bill, which now sits at the State Senate Committee, has already passed the House. Supporters call it the “Trust Act” and is aimed at easing the fears of undocumented immigrants. Police officials are calling it something else – a “sanctuary bill” that would block local police from cooperating with federal immigration officials when they arrest an illegal alien who has committed a crime. While this debate goes into limbo, the sheriffs of both Frederick and Harford County warned on Monday that word of this bill is spreading thought the illegal immigrant pipeline, putting Maryland as a prime destination for individuals wanting to avoid federal immigration laws.

“Not only will it make it a sanctuary state, but a magnet state,” said Sheriff Chuck Jenkins with Frederick County. “Meaning anybody can come into this state, commit a serious crime, a violent crime without any fear of removal. That’s a bad thing, so not only will we become a sanctuary, we will become a magnet for criminal activity.”

This issue has taken an emotional turn since the arrest of two Rockville High School students charged with the rape of a 14-year-old freshman in a school bathroom. The suspects, who U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement (ICE) says are in this country illegal, now both have detainers placed on them for deportation action.

Gov. Hogan is vowing if the State Senate denies his warning and passes this bill, he will veto it when it reaches his desk. Right now, the bill is hung up in the Judicial Proceedings Committee after the Maryland Senate President Mike Miller said he did not expect it could pass in its current form. The Maryland sheriffs who came here to the Maryland State House said the politicians who are pushing this effort are attracting more illegal immigration to the state.

“If you make it more difficult, more unfriendly to have people, I’m not just saying illegal aliens, but illegal aliens who want to victimize our communities, if you make it more difficult, they know there is a harder sanction that they are going to pay here in Maryland,” said Harford County Sheriff Jeffery Gahler. “They are going to go to a state that maybe is more receptive and that is the fear of the bill.”

Both the Harford and the Frederick County Sheriff’s Departments have signed partnership agreements with ICE. Anne Arundel County is also pursuing a similar agreement to better train its deputies. Officials stress this partnership only targets illegal immigrants who have been arrested for committing a serious crime that lands them in jail and they say they will not be doing any random immigration checks.

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