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Many communities in Maryland are openly flouting federal laws regarding immigration by establishing themselves as "sanctuary cities," and, by doing so; they are creating a troublesome precedent.
These "sanctuary cities" often prohibit their police from notifying federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) if they have detained an illegal immigrant. They encourage local police not to turn over illegal immigrants in their custody to federal officials because they might start deportation proceedings against them.
The stated purpose of these policies is to make illegal immigrants feel safe and welcome. That they thwart the enforcement of duly enacted federal immigration laws—and that immigration policy is the exclusive bailiwick of the federal government—doesn't enter into the mix.
Nor, it seems, do broader public safety concerns. The news frequently includes stories about illegal immigrants who were protected by these policies going on to commit crimes—often with tragic consequences.
San Fran just says "No"
San Francisco recently doubled-down on its policies by pulling its police out of the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) in the Bay Area. The reason for doing so: the city's political leaders don't want to run the risk of possibly contributing to federal immigration authorities' ability to capture illegal immigrants, even though the task force is meant to stop terrorist attacks, not search for illegal immigrants.
Given the political climate in many jurisdictions in Maryland, it's hardly surprising that our state has its share of sanctuary communities. According to the Center for Immigration Studies, Prince George's County Department of Corrections will not honor an ICE detainer without a warrant signed by a judge that demonstrates probable cause, and Montgomery County will not honor one without adequate probable cause.
The Baltimore City Detention Center, which is run by the state of Maryland, was even more nettlesome under the administration of Gov. Martin O'Malley. Under O'Malley, the city jail refused to notify federal authorities when an illegal immigrant targeted for deportation was going to be released. Gov. Larry Hogan reversed that posture.
Places like Baltimore and Annapolis recently have tried to move sanctuary cities legislation under the guise of calling themselves "welcoming" or "non-discriminatory."
The sanctuary movement hasn't won every fight, however. The Howard County Council voted to make the county a sanctuary community, but lacked the votes to override County Executive Allan Kittleman's veto. Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh has applied for the 278 (g) program that would train officers at the Ordnance Road Detention Center to be trained in federal immigration law and is negotiating with the federal government to allow them to use—and pay for—unused cells to detain criminal illegal aliens.
There now is a movement afoot to turn Maryland into a "sanctuary state." The "Trust Act," SB835 and HB1362, would prohibit police and sheriff's departments from honoring federal government requests to hold illegal immigrants longer than required by the local criminal justice system.
The Washington Post recently reported that, at a workshop conducted by Casa de Maryland, an immigrant-support group, Comptroller Peter Franchot asserted that he would never, ever; turn over illegal immigrants' tax information to immigration authorities. "If I have to get my law enforcement division to stand outside the door in Annapolis," he said, "I will."
One of the oddest things about those who think that their communities should flout federal law is that they think such acts should be free of any consequences. Thus, they bristle at President Trump's proposal that jurisdictions that thumb their noses at federal immigration laws should be denied federal funds until they change their ways.
Imagine Peter Franchot's reaction, however, if Carroll County's government concluded that state taxes on tobacco and alcohol were unreasonably high and so turned a blind to the smuggling and sale of untaxed cigarettes and alcohol in the county. What if it then prohibited county government officials from cooperating with state agencies in the enforcement of state tax laws and declared itself "welcoming" to anyone selling tax-free booze and smokes in Carroll County? And, boy, think what some people would say if the commissioners capped their defiance by saying, "If we have to get our deputies to stand outside the door in Westminster, we will."
How would the Left react if several Western counties or states declared that they wouldn't cooperate with federal agencies charged with enforcing federal gun laws? What if New York passed a law prohibiting state financial regulators from sharing information related to institutions and individuals involved in financial services with the Securities and Exchange Commission and the IRS?
Politicians and others have embraced the sanctuary movement for a number of reasons—e.g., the opportunity for ceaseless moral preening. With Donald Trump now in the White House, they can get an additional thrill from being in the "resistance".
This virtue signaling, however, sends a troublesome message: if you cloak certain actions in even the thinnest of moral veneers, it is acceptable to flout the rule of law, undermine American federalism, and weaken the Constitution, which all elected officials take an oath to support.
Michael Collins can be reached at email@example.com.