BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A controversial immigration bill suffers a major blow in Baltimore County.
The County Council voted on Monday on whether to require the Baltimore County Detention Center to screen for illegal immigrants.
The council decided to table the bill, which means it could come back in theory. But at least this version of it is dead. Immigration advocates made it clear at a rally last week.
They would fight tooth and nail, against a bill requiring Baltimore County correctional officers to screen the immigration status of jail inmates.
“This is not the county that we believe in. We don’t need this legislation,” says Elizabeth Alex, Regional Director of Casa de Maryland.
Their cries were answered Monday night after Baltimore County voted to table the bill.
The vote in the council chamber didn’t stop the debate on the streets.
“I don’t think correctional officers nor police need to be involved. Why? It just doesn’t seem that they typically do. Why start now?” says Megan McSwain.
“We need to know who’s in the country and who’s not,” says Drew Budelis from Baltimore County, who thinks immigration status should be checked.
County Executive Kamenetz staunchly opposed the measure and says the council did the right thing.
“I would have vetoed the bill and second I think it would have again spread a message that Baltimore County is not a welcoming county,” he says.
“As part of the program, people who are booked at detention centers are asked about their citizenship and place of birth. The answers to those questions can trigger a full on investigation into a person’s immigration status.”
CASA de Maryland issued a statement on the move, saying:
“CASA commends the Baltimore County Council for tabling legislation that would have required the county to enter into a collaboration agreement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement authorities, reversing the Executive Order issued by County Executive Kevin Kamenetz earlier this spring,”
“Baltimore County’s current policy protects the constitutional rights of all residents and encourages public safety,” said CASA Regional Director Elizabeth Alex.
“Today’s action by the council reassures its diverse residents that they are welcomed and protected.”
“The council’s action today reflects deep political divisions seen across the country as Trump supporters echo national attempts to implement unconstitutional policies to vilify immigrants and refugees,” said CASA’s Executive Director Gustavo Torres.
Yesenia Jones is an immigrant and says only those who commit serious crimes should be screened.
The federal program is already in place in Frederick and Harford Counties. It’s in the works in Anne Arundel County.
“Here in Harford County, my concern is public safety,” says Jeffrey Gahler with Harford County Sheriff’s Office.
The Republicans on the council introduced the bill.
In April, Kamenetz issued an executive order prohibiting Baltimore County police officers from asking anyone’s immigration status.