Middleton backs off Trust Act support
Miller says Mar yland will not be a sanctuary state
Whether Maryland should become a “sanctuary state” where undocumented immigrants have legal protections under the law became a talking point in Southern Maryland over the last few weeks because of the Law Enforcement and Government Trust act that was introduced into the Maryland General Assembly.
The law would prevent government officials and law enforcement on local and state levels from taking specific actions for the purpose of immigration enforcement and would prevent local
and state law enforcement from searching, arresting and detaining individuals for any suspected immigration violation.
Many in the community felt the bill would have made Maryland into a de facto sanctuary state without directly stating it in the legislation, including U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who threatened to take away federal funding from sanctuary states across the countr y.
The Trust Act passed through the House of Delegates in late March, but has not had a second reading in the Senate. Though he was originally a co-sponsor of the bill, Sen. Thomas “Mac” Middleton (D-Charles) said he removed his name from the bill because of concerns from the Charles County Sheriff’s Office and Charles County State’s Attorney’s Office.
“They told me that it could affect the way that they do their jobs negatively,” Middleton said. “And I told them I could not support the bill as currently written if it had a negative effect on them.”
There was a provision in the bill aimed at hampering any sort of racial profiling of immigrants from law enforcement and government officials, Middleton said. That provision was “of a concern” to law enforcement in Charles County, he said.
Senate President Thomas Mike V. Miller Jr. (D-Charles, Calvert, Prince George’s) has spoken out against the bill in the past and is in stern opposition of the state becoming a sanctuary state. At the Charles County Chamber of Commerce’s legislative breakfast in early March, Miller said, “Maryland is not going to be a sanctuary state,” in reference to a question addressing the Trust Act.
Middleton said he, county officials and law enforcement are all against racially profiling individuals based on their background and skin color. And there are undocumented immigrants in the country who are in danger of being removed and separated from their families, he said, so the Trust Act was worth the discussion.
However, he said, before a bill like that is passed, there needs to be some sort of “immigration reform” at the federal level with a new and robust immigration policy. Immigration laws need to be more specific, he said, when it comes to the documentation immigrants need to present and have prepared.
Del. Sally Jameson (D-Charles) supported the Trust Act along with the house, but said she did not expect the bill to move out of the senate. It was worth a discussion, she said, but there were too many people who thought it was a sanctuary bill.
“I don’t know that I saw it as a true sanctuary bill. I saw that it further protected everybody’s Fourth Amendment rights,” Jameson said. “I think it was worth the conversation.”
Though the bill will have little traction, Jameson said she is not disappointed with the results. There is a possibility, she said, that the discussion could be tabled for another time.
“Around here, we very seldom pass things on the first go round,” she said.
Charles County Delegation Chairwoman Del. Edith Patterson (D-Charles) said she was happy with the conversation as well, but was disappointed to see that the bill was not gaining support from the senate.
Law enforcement must follow due process with everyone, she said, and it is a “simple fact” that there are people in the country who are good citizens and hard working that have no chance of becoming legalized and live safely within the country’s borders.
The bill was not targeting any specific immigrant or race, she said, but rather sought to strengthen constitutional rights of individuals living in the state. Whether that makes the state a “sanctuary,” she said, is of little concern to her.
“My whole focus is to take fear away from people who are here,” Patterson said. “People are afraid to go get services, get healthcare, enroll their children in school. I’m going to leave it up to the justice department to say if they view Maryland as a sanctuary state.”