HARFORD COUNTY, Md. (WJZ)—Immigration has been a hot topic in the contentious race for the White House, but now policies in Maryland are coming under fire.
The most recent is in Harford County where deputies will start screening the immigration status for everyone who is arrested.
Harford County Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler has signed a federal partnership called “287-(g)” to screen the immigration status of people being arrested.
Deputies will be specially trained and target violent offenders who are not U.S citizens.
“The decision ultimately lies with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on whether they’re going to seek deportation or any other action,” said Harford County Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler.
In Frederick County, 1,400 people have been detained since 2008.
Immigrant advocates argue that programs like this breed mistrust in the police.
“Can all of the county residents trust that a call to local police is a call for help and not a call that would put them on a path to deportation,” said Elizabeth Alex, with Casa de Maryland.
This controversy comes days after Anne Arundel County announced a proposal to house undocumented immigrants for the feds in their county jail.
Frederick, Howard, Carroll and Worcester counties already have agreements hold ice detainees.
That program also under fire.
“There’s sort of this extra fear that immigrants will go further into the shadows and won’t participate,” Alex said.
But Sheriff Gahler says there’s no need to worry.
“If you’re the victim of a crime we are not going to be running you through any database,” he says.
He hopes to begin screenings this spring.
Harford is one of five new agencies being added to the federal program.
Harford deputies will be specially trained by immigrations and customs enforcement to conduct the screenings.