Maryland Sheriffs Push Back Against Proposed 'Sanctuary State' Legislation
Annapolis, MD – Three Maryland sheriffs are actively opposing proposed legislation that would prohibit law enforcement in the state from doing any federal immigration enforcement.
Harford County Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler, Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins, and Cecil County Sheriff Scott Adams are ardently against making Maryland a so-called “sanctuary state,” the Bel Air Patch reported.
Sheriffs Gahler, Jenkins, and Adams oppose Maryland House Bill 388 which would make it illegal for law enforcement agencies to inquire about a person’s immigration status, notify U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that a person they wanted was in custody, or to transfer a prisoner to federal immigration authorities without a warrant.
The three sheriffs were in Annapolis on Tuesday to testify before lawmakers about the success of the federal programs that their counties participate in with ICE, the Bel Air Patch reported.
Since 2016, some employees of the Harford County Sheriff's Office have been trained by ICE to screen people being booked into the county’s detention center to determine if they were in the United States illegally and met removal criterial.
Officials said the screeners found 44 illegal immigrants – four of whom were members of the MS-13 gang – in the first year of the program, the Bel Air Patch reported.
"This program allows local detention center officers, working under ICE supervision, to identify and process for removal those individuals who are in the country illegally and booked for another crime," Sheriff Gahler said. "Once an individual is identified, ICE determines the course of action related to any immigration action. Those individuals identified as having the highest priority are those individuals who present a threat to public safety."
All three counties – Harford, Cecil, and Frederick – participate in the federal 287(g) program through which the U.S. Department of Homeland Security deputizes local law enforcement to perform limited immigration enforcement, the Bel Air Patch reported.
ICE said that 79 law enforcement agencies in 21 states have participated in similar programs.
The sheriffs also opposed Maryland House Bill 67 which would prohibit the state from facilitating immigration-related detention and would require the state to end any contracts with facilities that hold ICE detainees, according to the Bel Air Patch.
"During my first term as sheriff, I was pleased to announce that crime had fallen each year and at the end of last year to another all-time low for our county,” Sheriff Gahler said. “I credit our crime reduction success to our complete public safety approach to crime fighting and our priorities which are inclusive of the 287(g) program."
"Returning these offenders back into our community to further victimize our citizens is certainly not an effective strategy to reduce crime and keep law-abiding citizens safe. Becoming a sanctuary state is not the way to focus on public safety,” the sheriff added.
Even sheriffs from jurisdictions who don’t already work with ICE are against Maryland becoming a “sanctuary state,” WTOP reported.
“State and local officials cooperate with federal law enforcement in every aspect such as gun control, drug laws, working close with the FBI, the DEA … Immigration should not be an exception,” Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis said. “Shielding criminal aliens needlessly endangers our innocent lives.”
Frederick County Sheriff Jenkins pointed a finger at neighboring Montgomery County as an example of a failure of sanctuary policies, WTOP reported.
“Last year, Montgomery County in the late summer experienced nine rapes and sexual assaults of minor children by removable criminal aliens, most of whom had been in custody by Montgomery County, which failed to cooperate with ICE,” the sheriff said.
He said that in the last 12 years, no illegal immigrant detained in Frederick County who was eligible to be deported has ever been freed to re-offend, WTOP reported.