June 12, 2012
For Immediate Release
Maryland Advocates Applaud DC Council for Standing for Public Safety and Opposing “Secure Communities”
- Call On Maryland’s Most Immigrant Populous Jurisdictions to Follow Suit -
The Maryland Commission for Family Unity, a group of civil rights, victims’ advocates, faith institutions, and labor and community organizations, heralded today the actions of the Washington DC Council in passing emergency legislation to protect the district from the negative impacts of the poorly designed federal immigration enforcement program Secure Communities. Commission members called on Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties – counties with the state’s largest immigrant populations – as well as the state of Maryland to follow suit.
“The nation’s capital has shown the type of leadership we need to ensure that our communities are protected from crime and our families are not being torn apart by ICE’s failed ‘Secure Communities’ program,” said Father Jacek Orzechowski, Parochial Vicar at St. Camillus church which sits on the border of the two counties in Silver Spring. “We expect our Maryland leadership to step up to the plate and protect the families of our parish, rather than spending their energy and limited resources on facilitating the inhumane and unjust policy separating parents from their children.”
The District’s Immigration Detainer Compliance Emergency Amendment Act had been winding its way successfully through the legislative process, when the federal government imposed without local consent activation of the controversial "Secure Communities" deportation program. In response, councilmembers unanimously passed an emergency version of the act which will limit ICE’s use of District facilities and equipment and narrow the deportation dragnet by only responding to immigration detention requests for individuals who are over 18 and have been convicted of a dangerous crime. The act builds upon the Mayor’s Order 2011-174 (October 19, 2011) that prohibits all public safety agencies from inquiring about individuals’ immigration status or transmitting information about immigration status.
Maryland advocates have taken note as jurisdictions across the country took aggressive action to protect local community policing initiatives from the toxic effects of the program. Earlier this year, Connecticut became the first state in the country to significantly curtail the points at which it will respond to detainer requests, setting out a set of specific convictions that will trigger compliance with a detainer request.
Detainer policies have become the last remaining tool for local jurisdictions to avoid becoming de facto immigration agents. Under the operations of such a policy, a person who is taken into custody and fingerprinted still has their fingerprints sent, via an FBI warrant search, to ICE. However, if ICE issues a request that the local jurisdiction detain the person, the local jurisdiction sets standards by which it chooses to honor those requests. In Maryland, advocates have urged Montgomery and Prince George’s County, as well as the Governor, to adopt standards similar to the nation’s capital.
Late last month, the position of advocates was bolstered by the release of a legal opinion by the Howard Law School Civil Rights Clinic under the direction of Professor Ajmel Quereshi. Examining the question of the legal permissibility of detainer policies like that just adopted in Washington, the Clinic concluded that detainers, unlike warrants, were not mandates. Accordingly local governments could make a determination that critical priorities – such as victim protection or community policing - required limiting when those detainers would be fulfilled.
Members of the Maryland Commission for Family Unity have committed to build on the Washington, DC momentum by pressing local officials to alleviate the suffering created by Secure Communities. According to research issued by the Applied Research Center and the Berkeley School of Law, more than 1 in 3 people detained through Secure Communities has a US citizen spouse or child. And, in just the first 6 months of 2011, immigration enforcement left more than 46,000 US citizen children orphaned in the United States.
“Victims of the broken immigration system do not exist in a vacuum. They are neighbors, coworkers, and friends. They go to our churches and attend our schools. Together we are Maryland and we can build a better solution than the mistakes we confront today” said Jaime Contreras, District Director of the Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ.
The Maryland Commission on Family Unity is composed of African-American civil rights groups, faith institutions, domestic violence organizations, youth services groups, labor, and diverse immigrant organizations who are committed to insuring that the broken immigration system does not break apart our local Maryland families. The Commission includes: the ACLU of Maryland, ACLU – Prince George’s County, AILA-DC/MD/VA Chapter, the Baltimore Hispanic Pastors Association, the Baltimore Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Bilingual Christian Church, CASA de Maryland, Equity Matters, Maryland Network against Domestic Violence, Murphy Initiative for Justice and Peace, NAACP – Anne Arundel County Branch, NAACP-Baltimore City Branch, NAACP – Prince George’s County Branch, NAACP Maryland State Conference, National Action Network, Progressive Maryland, Progressive Neighbors, South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Parish, Safe and Sound Campaign, St. Dominics/St. Anthonys Catholic Parish, St. Camillus Parish, SEIU 32BJ, SEIU MD and DC State Council, United Workers, and the Women’s Law Center.