- The Washington Times - Monday, April 10, 2017

A proposal to turn Maryland into a “sanctuary state” by limiting local law enforcement cooperation with federal immigration authorities died in the State House on Monday after lawmakers withdrew the bill — which had garnered a veto threat from the governor and a rebuke from Trump administration Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

In one of the first big state-level challenges to the administration’s tougher line on illegal immigration, the original bill would have prevented police from inquiring about a person’s immigration status during a stop or detention and blocked jail officials from holding people past their release dates so immigration agents could detain them.

Debate over the bill, called the Maryland Law Enforcement and Governmental Trust Act, came amid outrage after two Montgomery County high school students, at least one of whom is an illegal immigrant, were accused of raping a 14-year-old girl inside a school restroom, shining a spotlight on the sanctuary movement and drawing a direct rebuke from the White House. Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, had said he would veto the bill if it was passed in the General Assembly.

Maryland is one of a handful of states to consider “sanctuary” status, which scores of cities and counties across the county have adopted. California, New York, Illinois and Nevada are reportedly considering their own versions of the Maryland bill protecting illegal immigrants from the reach of federal law.

The House of Delegates voted last month to adopt the proposal, but the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee gave it an unfavorable report, and the bill was withdrawn as the Maryland General Assembly’s 90-day legislative session wound down.

Lawmakers opted instead for a face-saving compromise, enshrining in Maryland law a provision already recognized in federal law that restricts officers’ ability to ask about immigration status before an arrest. That proposal was set for debate in the final hours of the General Assembly Monday night, but it appeared unlikely to gain traction.

Some Democratic lawmakers, unhappy with the compromise adopted by leadership, pledged Monday to continue to fight for protections for immigrants and people of color.

“We are not going to stop until we have justice and protections for everyone in the State of Maryland,” Delegate Cheryl D. Glenn, Baltimore Democrat, said in a rally Monday afternoon in Annapolis.

Delegate Joseline Pena-Melnyk, Prince George’s County Democrat, was critical of Democratic leadership — specifically calling out Sen. Robert A. Zirkin and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr.

“We need someone who is going to protect everyone, who’s not going to compromise,” she said. “How can you not be a true Democrat? You killed the bill. Shame on you, and I hope your district takes you out.”

Mr. Miller also said the proposal wouldn’t make it through the Senate.

“Our churches are not sanctuaries, our colleges are not sanctuaries, our cities are not sanctuaries,” Mr. Miller, a Calvert County Democrat, said in March. “The bill as it passed the House is not going to pass the Senate.”

Sessions’ rebuke

The bill also drew rebuke from Mr. Sessions, a key architect of President Trump’s immigration platform during the election campaign last year. Mr. Sessions said last month that the legislation was “not good policy” and implored state officials not to adopt the proposal.

Mr. Zirkin, the Baltimore County Democrat who heads the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, told The Baltimore Sun that he thought his fellow lawmakers should support the compromise even if it didn’t accomplish all they hoped.

“You do the best you can with the policy, and the politics takes care of itself,” Mr. Zirkin said.

Maryland Republican Party Chairman Dirk D. Haire said the bill appeared to have started a “civil war” between the liberal and moderate Democrats in the legislature.

“Mainstream Democrats have been responsive to the message we’ve been sending, which is that sanctuary cities are dangerous,” Mr. Haire said.

He said the uproar over the rape at Rockville High School in Montgomery County highlighted residents’ concerns about sanctuary jurisdictions becoming a magnet for illegal immigrants who commit crimes.

“I think it had the effect of focusing on the fact that criminals are entering illegally and committing crimes,” Mr. Haire said. “It does point out that it’s not just peaceful or hardworking immigrants who are entering the country.”

One of the two men accused of the rape encountered immigration agents in Texas about eight months ago and was issued a court date to face charges of immigration violations. He never showed up and traveled to Maryland, where he enrolled in school last fall.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s list of sanctuary cities tallies three communities in Maryland that have local policies shielding illegal immigrants from federal agents: the city of Baltimore and Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.

All told, ICE’s most recent list last week details 142 jurisdictions across the country that have policies restricting cooperation with federal agents. That is down from the previous week’s list, which cited 151 jurisdictions.

California and Connecticut, two states that have approved their own versions of the Trust Act, are on ICE’s list.

Stephen Dinan contributed to this report.

• Andrea Noble can be reached at anoble@washingtontimes.com.

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