Maryland could become a role model for immigrants rights with the Dignity Not Detention Act
The bill would end both county jail contracts for immigrant detention and protect undocumented drivers during police stops.
Following heated debate, Maryland’s General Assembly passed major immigrants’ rights legislation on Monday, April 12.
The Dignity Not Detention Act, sponsored by Delegate Vaughn Stewart, was originally intended to prohibit Maryland jurisdictions from opening contracts with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to detain undocumented individuals in their local jails.
But after some review, the bill was amended to include pieces of the TRUST Act, which would provide even greater protections for immigrants.
Thank you @CASAforall for bringing attention once again this morning to the Dignity Not Detention and the MD Trust Act. I'm proud to stand with Maryland's immigrant community. Thanks @WanikaFisher and @DelegateStewart for your leadership on these bills. pic.twitter.com/IbFjxEIQko
— Delegate Rachel Jones (@RachelJforMD) April 7, 2021
Under the bill that passed, in addition to provisions concerning ICE contracts, state and local law enforcement officers can no longer inquire about an individual’s immigration or residence status during traffic stops.
“Thousands of immigrant families celebrate the passage of these major immigrant victories in this Maryland General Assembly,” Gustavo Torres, executive director of CASA, said in a statement. “Elected leaders understood their responsibility to build trust between the community, law enforcement, and government.”
Through this legislation, Maryland lawmakers take a step towards banning jails from being paid by the federal government to confine people on immigration matters.
The program in question, where ICE pays jails to house detainees, has come under fire in the handful of Maryland counties that engage in the practice.
The defense is that the program helps local governments raise money when there is empty space in their jails. Opponents maintain that local jails should not be participating in and profiting from immigration enforcement, which is a federal matter.
“Maryland is better than ICE and detention centers,” Stewart said.
Immigrants in our communities have waited far too long for the protection that they need in Dignity Not Detention Act. Marylanders must be empowered to fully participate in society, have their constitutional rights respected & live freely regardless of citizenship or legal status https://t.co/1YKE8klWLS pic.twitter.com/3B85aQ1B9o
— ACLU of Maryland (@ACLU_MD) April 13, 2021
His bill would require the three counties currently housing ICE detainees — Frederick, Howard and Worcester — to end their agreements by Oct. 1, 2022.
It would also ban local and state governments from subsidizing the construction of any privately-run immigrant detention centers.
The bill first moved out of the Senate chamber on Monday. Republicans opposed it, claiming that it suppresses economic opportunity for the state’s smaller jurisdictions by preventing them from committing to potentially advantageous contracts with ICE.
But Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee Chairman William C. Smith Jr., quickly rebutted this argument, saying that the legislature should be encouraging policy that doesn’t “profit off of imprisoned people with no criminal charge.”
He then explained that for so many undocumented people in the U.S., this is their home.
“This is the only country they really know,” he said, insisting that plucking them away from their lives and detaining them while they await their trials is “inhumane.”
The bill passed out of the Senate chamber with a vote of 30-17.
Late Monday, during a brief break in the House floor session, the House Judiciary Committee held a voting session to decide whether or not the House should agree with the Senate amendments that expanded the scope of the bill.
Ultimately, the committee approved of the amendments, accelerating the process for the bill to advance to the desk of Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr., where the fate of this bill will ultimately be determined.
Much to the concern of advocates, the Republican governor was publicly lobbying his base to oppose the bill earlier on Monday, and announced to reporters that his opposition to the bill is steadfast.
“I would veto any sanctuary bill that passed the legislature today,” Hogan said at a press conference Monday. “Hopefully that won’t happen. But we would definitely veto that.”
In a tweet, Stewart announced the win, and informed his constituents that the bill now heads to the governor’s desk. Stewart posed a screenshot of a post that Gov. Hogan made on his Facebook page, where he staunchly opposed the bill, claiming that it’s “irresponsible.”
“He doesn’t seem to like it very much. However, based on his Facebook post today, he also doesn’t seem to understand what it does. I’m hoping that he will sign it once he has a chance to read the final version,” Stewart wrote.
The bill now heads to Governor Hogan’s desk. He doesn’t seem to like it very much. However, based on his Facebook post today, he also doesn’t seem to understand what it does.
I’m hoping that he will sign it once he has a chance to read the final version. pic.twitter.com/brHWzJ7VAI
— Vaughn Stewart (@DelegateStewart) April 13, 2021
“Elected leaders understood their responsibility to build trust between the community, law enforcement, and government. These bills move us towards a future where immigrants can drive the roads safely, without worrying about ICE digging around their personal records without a warrant,” said Torres. “Maryland is on its way to becoming a national pioneer for all immigrants. What the state needs now is this bill to become law, immediately.”
Advocates now look to Governor Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. to pass this bill into law, and become a role model for other states.