Maryland Democrats this week took a major step to becoming a "sanctuary state," drawing outrage from Republican Gov. Larry Hogan and concerns it would protect an 18-year-old illegal charged with raping a 14-year-old girl in a school bathroom last week.
The Democratically-controlled House of Delegates voted 83-55 to OK the Maryland Law Enforcement and Trust Act. Generally, it would bar state and local law enforcement from helping federal immigration officials seeking illegals, including requests to detain inmates for deportation.
The legislation, however, allows counties that prefer to work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to continue. The sponsor, Del. Marice Morales of Montgomery County, called it a compromise, but told the Baltimore Sun that she was "disappointed."
The Maryland House Democrats Twitter account said the law "promotes understanding & respect between our communities and law enforcement."
The passage drew a quick veto threat from Hogan. On Facebook, he said, "The Maryland House of Delegates tonight passed an outrageously irresponsible bill that will make Maryland a sanctuary state and endanger our citizens. This legislation would interfere with our state and local law enforcement's ability to cooperate with federal law enforcement authorities. I will veto this dangerously misguided legislation the moment that it reaches my desk."
The State of MD is calling on Montgomery County to fully cooperate w/federal authorities during the investigation: https://t.co/RPoeeRbqfw pic.twitter.com/RXBVY3u3B3— Larry Hogan (@LarryHogan) March 21, 2017
And Sen. Michael Hough, a Republican from Frederick County which has struggled with MS-13 crime, added that the legislation "turns Maryland into a sanctuary state for illegal aliens who have committed crimes. Law enforcement cannot coordinate with DHS."
He said that the legislation has been "floating around" in the state capital for a while, but that a "Trump derangement syndrome" is helping to push the bill this year.
Also turns Maryland into a sanctuary state for illegal aliens who have committed crimes. Law enforcement cannot coordinate with DHS https://t.co/SM2yqkrP1k— Michael Hough (@senatorhough) March 20, 2017
In a February hearing in Annapolis, Morales said the legislation was needed because of President Trump's efforts to increase deportations of criminal illegals, though she wouldn't use his name. She referred to Trump as "the executive to this country, which he will remain nameless for now as far as I am concerned."
Explaining the bill, she said, "What this is about is we're not going to initiate, we're not going to use state or local resources to do the federal government's job." She added that it would empower the attorney general to "adopt policies so that Maryland residents, including undocumented immigrants, they they feel safe in public funded areas like the public schools, hospitals and court houses."
In addition to Maryland, California is taking steps to become a sanctuary state. Rhode Island and Connecticut have issued similar rules over agencies it controls.
Jessica Vaughan, the policy director at the Center for Immigration Studies, said sanctuary policies are a public safety threat.
"I can't imagine how any lawmaker in their right mind in Maryland could support a sanctuary policy after all that has happened there, especially after the influx of illegal alien youths and families from Central America, which swept in a whole new generation of gang members who have been terrorizing immigrant communities. Montgomery and Prince Georges counties in particular have become safe havens for all manner of criminal aliens who should be sent back to their home country instead of allowed to stay here in defiance of our laws," she said.
Vaughan added, "It's a disgrace that the Maryland assembly is working harder for illegal aliens than it is for the Marylanders who are harmed by illegal immigration."
On Monday, ICE and the Department of Homeland Security ripped sanctuary areas for endangering the public and vowed to step up efforts to get access to illegals being held in jail.
That includes 18-year-old Henry E. Sanchez of Guatemala, charged with raping the 14-year-old girl in a boy's restroom at Rockville High School last week. He and another suspect, from El Salvador, are being held in jail.
Officials have not indicated if they will turn Sanchez over to ICE before he goes through the court process and is convicted. DHS identified Montgomery County as a "sanctuary county," though the county has rejected the label.
Federal immigration law does not require that illegals sought for deportation be convicted or that they serve their prison terms first, according to officials.
Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org