Kamenetz: Balto. Co. to help shield im­mi­grants

He also calls on po­ten­tial 2018 ri­val Ho­gan to do same

Baltimore Sun - - FRONT PAGE - By John Fritze

Bal­ti­more County Ex­ec­u­tive Kevin Kamenetz, weigh­ing in on a di­vi­sive po­lit­i­cal bat­tle that has erupted since Don­ald Trump was elected pres­i­dent, added his name Mon­day to the grow­ing list of Democrats vow­ing to shield im­mi­grants from de­por­ta­tion.

Kamenetz, who is con­sid­er­ing a bid for gover­nor in 2018, said he sup­ports ef­forts by uni­ver­si­ties to cre­ate “sanc­tu­ary cam­puses,” and said he had di­rected county po­lice to avoid tak­ing part “in any ef­fort” to iden­tify the im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus of stu­dents.

But the an­nounce­ment — which fol­lowed sim­i­lar state­ments from lead­ers in Bal­ti­more, Mont­gomery County and cities across the coun­try — likely has more to do with po­lit­i­cal sym­bol­ism af­ter a bit­ter pres­i­den­tial elec­tion cam­paign than any change in how the county will deal with im­mi­gra­tion.

In a not-so-sub­tle nod to that po­lit­i­cal con­text, Kamenetz used part of the let­ter to call on Re­pub­li­can Gov. Larry Ho­gan — a po­ten­tial ri­val in 2018 — to sup­port pro­tect­ing un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants at all of Mary­land’s uni­ver­si­ties.

A spokesman for Ho­gan did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment.

“I strongly sup­port your ef­forts to pro­tect un­doc­u­mented stu­dents from de­por­ta­tion in the wake of the re­cent pres­i­den­tial elec­tion,” Kamenetz wrote in a let­ter to the lead­ers of the Uni­ver­sity of Mary­land, Bal­ti­more County, Tow­son Uni­ver­sity and three other schools in the county.

“I have also ad­vised Chief [James W.] John­son that the Bal­ti­more County Po­lice Depart­ment should not par­tic­i­pate in any ef­fort to iden­tify oth­er­wise law-abid­ing stu­dents from our col­lege cam­puses that would sub­ject them to de­por­ta­tion by fed­eral au­thor­i­ties,” Kamenetz wrote.

Free­man A. Hrabowski III, UMBC’s pres­i­dent, told stu­dents and fac­ulty this month that he’s work­ing to un­der­stand op­tions un­der state and fed­eral law to make the school a sanc­tu­ary cam­pus for stu­dents in the coun­try with­out le­gal doc­u­men­ta­tion.

Mike Lurie, a spokesman for the Uni­ver­sity Sys­tem of Mary­land, which in­cludes Col­lege Park, UMBC and 10 other in­sti­tu­tions, said in­di­vid­ual schools may choose not to help fed­eral agents en­force im­mi­gra­tion laws.

Repub­li­cans in Bal­ti­more County and else­where were quick to dis­miss Kamenetz’s move as po­lit­i­cal.

“The 2018 elec­tion is two years away,” said County Coun­cil­man David Marks, a Re­pub­li­can who rep­re­sents Tow­son.

“I sup­port Gover­nor Ho­gan’s call for a thought­ful ap­proach to this is­sue, and re­gard­less, think the county ex­ec­u­tive’s staff should con­sult with the County Coun­cil be­fore is­su­ing press re­leases,” he said. “Af­ter all, we ap­prove the fund­ing for the po­lice and com­mu­nity col­lege sys­tem.”

As a prac­ti­cal mat­ter, nei­ther fed­eral nor lo­cal law en­force­ment of­fi­cials are likely to storm col­lege cam­puses in search of stu­dent im­mi­grants. But if they have a war­rant, law en­force­ment may pur­sue a sus­pect re­gard­less of any sanc­tu­ary pol­icy put into place.

The au­thor­ity of lo­cal po­lice to en­force im­mi­gra­tion law is sharply lim­ited.

The Supreme Court, rul­ing in 2012 on a con­tro­ver­sial state im­mi­gra­tion law in Ari­zona, said po­lice may ask about a per­son’s im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus as part of a rou­tine in­ter­ac­tion for another is­sue — a traf­fic stop, for in­stance — as long as it does not pro­long that con­tact.

But lo­cal po­lice, in most cases, may not stop some­one for the sole pur­pose of ask­ing for pa­pers, and they can­not carry out im­mi­gra­tion raids in­de­pen­dent of fed­eral agents, said Lena Graber, spe­cial projects at­tor­ney with the Im­mi­grant Le­gal Re­source Cen­ter in Cal­i­for­nia.

Lo­cal po­lice “don’t have a ba­sis to do it on their own,” Graber said. “Ari­zona tried to give po­lice a ba­sis to stop peo­ple, and it was struck down, be­cause it was pre-empted.”

Still, Kamenetz’s let­ter un­der­scored a clear rhetor­i­cal dif­fer­ence be­tween ju­ris­dic­tions in Mary­land run by Democrats and Repub­li­cans.

Owen McEvoy, a spokesman for Anne Arun­del County Ex­ec­u­tive Steven R. Schuh, said the Re­pub­li­can is “com­mit­ted to as­sist­ing our fed­eral part­ners in en­forc­ing fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion law.”

McEvoy said Arun­del is “not con­tem­plat­ing any ac­tion sim­i­lar to Bal­ti­more County’s.” He said of­fi­cials there viewed Kamenetz’s let­ter “as just another po­lit­i­cal stunt of some­one ob­vi­ously eye­ing a run for gover­nor.”

Be­fore the elec­tion, Schuh’s ad­min­is­tra­tion was con­sid­er­ing work­ing with the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion to house de­tained im­mi­grants at the Ord­nance Road Cor­rec­tional Cen­ter in Glen Burnie.

GOP of­fi­cials in Carroll and St. Mary’s coun­ties — both of which are also home to four-year uni­ver­si­ties — did not re­spond to re­peated re­quests for com­ment about the “sanc­tu­ary cam­pus” move­ment in Mary­land.

Af­ter Trump’s elec­tion, Bal­ti­more Mayor Stephanie Rawl­ings-Blake reaf­firmed her com­mit­ment to a 2012 ex­ec­u­tive or­der that pro­hib­ited city po­lice from ask­ing about a per­son’s citizenship sta­tus.

Big-city po­lice de­part­ments have tried for years to steer clear of en­forc­ing fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion law for fear of scar­ing away im­mi­grants who might need ser­vices or be use­ful in crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

Bal­ti­more, like New York, Chicago and oth­ers, is widely con­sid­ered a “sanc­tu­ary city.” Trump has sug­gested cut­ting fed­eral fund­ing to such cities.

But the term is ill-de­fined, and it is not at all clear whether that fund­ing would ac­tu­ally be in jeop­ardy. In Mary­land, the at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice has ad­vised against tak­ing some of the ac­tions Repub­li­cans have sought, sug­gest­ing it could open lo­cal gov­ern­ments up to con­sti­tu­tional chal­lenges.

Trump cam­paigned on a prom­ise to end a pro­gram es­tab­lished by Pres­i­dent Barack Obama that has al­lowed un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants who were brought to the coun­try as chil­dren to stay.

Since the elec­tion, the Re­pub­li­can has soft­ened his rhetoric. Where he once said he would de­port 11 mil­lion un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants, he has since sug­gested he would fo­cus on 2 mil­lion to 3 mil­lion who have com­mit­ted crimes since ar­riv­ing in the U.S. — an ap­proach sim­i­lar to Obama’s.

Todd Eberly, a po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist at St. Mary’s Col­lege, de­scribed Kamenetz’s let­ter as a po­lit­i­cal tac­tic.

The Demo­crat “has got to line up sup­port among the most com­mit­ted ac­tivist mem­bers of his own party,” Eberly said. “For him to pub­licly make this pledge — which in and of it­self is mean­ing­less — he’s sort of staked out a po­si­tion.”

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