Maryland Debates Stance on Cooperating with Federal Immigration Enforcement

Community News

The only bill being debated in Annapolis that makes sure a Muslim registry is not formed in the state of Maryland is what is known as the Maryland Trust Act.

Officially known as the Maryland Law Enforcement and Trust Act, the bill was sponsored by Del. Marice I. Morales (D-Montgomery) and the Senator Victor Ramirez (D) from District 47 in Prince George’s County.

The bill prohibits local police from randomly asking people on the street about their immigration status. If a person in picked up by the police and booked for a crime, then as soon as their fingerprints are entered into a national database their immigration status is automatically known.

"My biggest fear is that my children will come home from school and I won't be there,” shared CASA leader Lucy at an immigration and anti Muslim ban rally in Baltimore as she addressed a crowd of supporters, while Irish immigrants and their descendants celebrated their culture in an annual parade behind her.

The fact is that there is a large and growing Latino Muslim population. People like Diana Barahona-Ali are doubly impacted by policies that target minorities and is concerned for her neighbors. Her grandmother came here in the 1980s from Ecuador and worked as a seamstress. She supports the Maryland Trust Act to protect human beings from profiling, discrimination, separation of families, tearing the lives of good decent people who have contributed to their communities. “We know they come here illegally, but you have to ask yourselves why does a person do that. What kind of life are they trying to leave behind and what have they achieved since they've been here. It reminds me in Islam the law is you cut the hand of the thief, however some scholars go further and say you must find out why they stole. Was it poverty or hunger driven? [If so] then their leaders should be blamed,” said Barahona-Ali. “If I as a first generation American can do or say something...then it's my duty,” she adds.

This is also not just a Latino issue as there are undocumented immigrants from Ireland, Russia, India, Philippines, and China in the country.

Maryland is a welcoming state that allows undocumented immigrants to apply for driver's licenses to obtain a driver's license if they have filed a Maryland tax return or were claimed as a dependent of someone who filed a Maryland tax return for the past two years.

The bill passed the House of Delegates last week (83-55) and is awaiting further hearings in Senate. After the vote Del. Clarence Lam (D-Baltimore County/Howard County) stated that “this is a needed bill that will ensure that state and local law enforcement will focus on enforcing state and local laws, ultimately make our communities safer, and prevent racial profiling.”

Some politician such as Del. Herb McMillan (R-Anne Arundel) of Annapolis worry that this bill will make the state a sanctuary for criminals. “This is where our opposition to the Trust Act is rooted, and on this point we refuse to yield,” he wrote in a an oped for the Capital Gazette as Governor Hogan plans to veto the bill.

Crossing party lines requires a closer look at the bill; nothing in the bill blocks local officials from sharing information with federal authorities about an undocumented immigrant’s criminal record or responding to subpoenas.

“The words “sanctuary city” (or county) have no legal or clear-cut definition; they are political darts thrown for the purpose of suggesting a locality is soft on illegal immigration,” says an editorial in the Washington Post. “In fact, hundreds of cities and counties around the country have detailed and nuanced rules that determine the circumstances under which they do or don’t share with [federal authorities] certain information regarding undocumented immigrants.”
Tahira Mussarat Hussain is on the Governor’s Committee on South Asian Affairs and the former Vice President of the League of Women Voters of Howard County. She believes that the Maryland Trust Act will protect all immigrants, not just the Muslim community. “We are stronger together,” says Hussain.

The subject is controversial for some documented immigrants who say that undocumented immigrants should get in a line and come in through the legal route. This argument is moot say immigrant rights activists as there is no line for immigrants from several countries. Many of the people who cross the border should be treated like refugees as they as trying to escape harsh realities in the countries of their origin.

The Maryland Trust Act makes our state stronger by creating a welcoming environment for all and by enhancing trust in government and local police, posted Del. Aruna Miller (D-Montgomery) on social media. Miller is an Indian-American immigrant.

At the Interfaith Night in Annapolis, United Muslim Council and all of the Muslim councils in the other counties expressed support of the Maryland Trust Act.

“We have your back and you are the government, your state and your country,” said state Senator Roger Manno, speaking to a full hall at the Miller Senate building.

District 16, State Senator Susan Lee, Chair of the Maryland Legislative Asian American and Pacific Islander Caucus. “That is act that represents Maryland. We live in the state because we can be who we are,” she added. “This is our country and we will take it to even greater heights,” she said as she urged Senators to vote to pass the act.
Del. Hasan Jalisi (D-Baltimore City) and two other delegates have not voted on the bill. Two votes are needed in the House to make this bill veto-proof.

Rizwan Siddiqi, President of UMMC, hopes that the delegates change their minds about this important bill. The immigrant community and the Muslim community is looking at these delegates and their state senators to show their support for bill.