- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 19, 2016

ANNAPOLIS — Stymied at the federal level, the sanctuary city debate is about to be launched in Maryland’s General Assembly, where Delegate Pat McDonough plans to introduce legislation that would punish cities and counties that refuse to cooperate with agents seeking to deport illegal immigrants.

The Baltimore County Republican’s plans, which already are drawing fierce opposition, would withhold some state money from jurisdictions that won’t share information, and would push state prisons to notify the Department of Homeland Security before releasing illegal immigrants and give agents a chance to come get them.

“This has been a raging national debate since Donald Trump brought up the issue in San Francisco, with Kathryn Steinle being murdered by a criminal illegal immigrant who was released on five occasions,” Mr. McDonough said, referring to a young woman who was shot to death while walking the San Francisco waterfront with her father in July. An illegal immigrant whom San Francisco shielded from deportation months earlier has been accused of the killing.

Sanctuary cities have multiplied in recent years as more jurisdictions balk at assisting what they see as an overbearing federal immigration system. Many police chiefs say they want to focus on enforcing their jurisdictions’ laws, and say they fear immigrants will distrust police and stop reporting crimes if they believe local authorities are cooperating with federal agents.

In Maryland, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County and Baltimore are listed as sanctuaries by the Center for Immigration Studies.

Mr. McDonough said it is important to root out illegal immigrants because their rise is connected with an increase in murders and heroin use in the state. He also said they are taking jobs that could go to others, particularly in the Baltimore area.

“They don’t take jobs from lawyers or reporters,” he said. “They take jobs from low-skilled young people, entry-level jobs, training jobs. They displace them.”

Democratic lawmakers, though, said Mr. McDonough is fomenting dissent between Hispanics and African-Americans.

“I think that’s a very divisive argument that’s been used and has been used for decades to drive wedges between two communities that have a lot of self-interest, overlapping interest, and so I think that’s a divisive argument,” said Delegate William C. Smith Jr., Montgomery Democrat.

He said Mr. McDonough‘s sanctuary bills are unlikely to make it out of committee in the Democratic-controlled legislature.

And even Republicans said they aren’t going to line up behind Mr. McDonough, saying immigration isn’t high on their list of fights for the state GOP right now.

“I do not support sanctuary city-type laws and I think the federal government and state should do all we can to ensure we’re following the laws,” said House Minority Leader Nicholaus Kipke, Anne Arundel Republican. “But I’m focused on budgetary issues, we’re voting on veto overrides. I haven’t really thought about what Pat‘s bringing up.”

President Obama has canceled many cooperation programs between federal immigration agents and local police, but he has pushed a new program designed to get jails and prisons to turn over illegal immigrants when U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents ask for them.

One of Mr. McDonough‘s bills would go further, requiring Maryland prisons to inform ICE 10 days ahead of a prisoner’s release, so agents could have time to prepare and be on hand to pick them up.

Immigrant rights activists, however, wondered how that would work when someone is arrested but makes bail or is released before 10 days have elapsed.

“I would expect that most custodial holds are 48 hours maximum, so it’s going to be unconstitutional to hold anyone [past the end of their sentence],” said Kim Propeack, chief for politics and communications at CASA in Action, a pro-immigration political action committee. “So most people are in for less than 10 days, so are they going to hold them for that 10 day notification time?”

Sirine Shebaya, an immigration attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, said even ICE doesn’t ask for 10-day advanced notice.

“They want to be notified 48 hours in advance. It just seems like a useless enterprise that wouldn’t be helpful to anybody and it’s just making a point that we want to be more unwelcoming to immigrants than we already are,” she said.

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