ELLICOTT CITY, Md. (WJZ) — The Howard County Council on Monday passed a bill that would stop the county from housing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees, but County Executive Calvin Ball has pledged to veto it.
The bill, CB-51, would prohibit the Department of Corrections from “detain(ing) or keep(ing) in custody any person detained in federal custody for a federal immigration violation, except to the extent required for an unrelated state law purpose.”
Councilmember Christiana Rigby voted in favor of passing it despite saying it will likely mean current detainees will be transferred to a “worse” facility.
“I also do not want to provide a false sense of security to our immigrant community in Howard County,” she said. “ICE agents can still enter the county and separate people from their families regardless of county law.”
Councilmember Opel Jones voted no on the bill, saying it would not address the larger issue of keeping families together. During Monday’s meeting, he said he plans to announce updated legislation in the future.
Councilmember David Yungmann blasted the bill, calling it “nothing more than a knee-jerk response to national politics, national immigration policies at a tremendous cost to Howard County taxpayers.”
A fiscal analysis of the bill found that based on historic revenue, the county could lose around $2 million annually if it takes effect.
In September, the county’s corrections department updated its policy to only hold ICE detainees who have been convicted of a violent crime. Ball said that policy change “strikes the right balance of ensuring safety for County residents and businesses while allowing for fair treatment for those who have been convicted by the criminal justice system.”
“With the recent revisions and implementation to our Detention Center’s policy, to only hold ICE detainees at the Howard County Detention Center who been convicted of a crime of violence, we provided a practical long-term solution,” the county executive said in the news release. “The updated policy was supported and endorsed by CASA, CAIR, as well as other immigration advocates and attorneys who represent ICE detainees.”
CB-51, he said, “will end a 25-year contract that has helped make Howard County and the state of Maryland safer and make it tougher for ICE detainees to receive proper legal representation and access to their families.”