Middleton backs off Trust Act sup­port

Miller says Mar yland will not be a sanc­tu­ary state

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By MICHAEL SYKES II msykes@somd­news.com

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.”

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