Howard County holds public meeting on sanctuary law

Posted at 7:53 AM, Jan 17, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-17 17:39:30-05

A crowd of more than 300 is expected to gather in Ellicott City Tuesday night for a public meeting considering whether or not Howard County should have sanctuary status when it comes to the enforcement of immigration laws.

The meeting will run from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the George Howard Building, located at 3430 Court House Drive.

RELATEDProposed Howard Co. bill aims to prevent questions about immigration status

"Sanctuary is not a hiding place, sanctuary is a place where you can feel peace," Reverend Leandro Fazolini said.

Proponents for the bill include religious figures who are members of PATH and say their congregation includes illegal immigrants who have voiced concerns.

"They have to be quiet, just because sometimes they got robbed or sometimes they saw something and they want to report and they are afraid," Father Fazolini said. His congregation is 1,400 strong, the largest Latino church in Howard County,

Reverend Paige Getty said the county has always been welcoming, and helps their most vulnerable population, "We are a county that prides itself on being a diverse county, one that looks out for each other and we know in this county we have undocumented immigrants who work and serve all of us who are our neighbors who are in school with our children."

Not long after Howard County Council Members Calvin Ball and Jen Terrasa proposed the bill, Howard County Executive Allen Kittleman said he would veto the bill if passed by the council.

"My police chief told me that the legislation the way it's crafted right now would affect our ability to investigate and to enforce child pornography, human trafficking laws or if we have some more gang violence," Kittleman said.

RELATEDKittleman says he would veto sanctuary county bill

He says the bill won't prevent illegal immigrants from being deported and could jeopardize federal funding needed by the county.

Several counties in Maryland have claimed sanctuary status for illegal immigrants, including Montgomery and Prince George's Counties. Former Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake also declared Baltimore a welcoming city for immigrants.

RELATEDMayor to declare Baltimore welcoming city for immigrants

Sanctuary status is loosely defined as a county or city which helps protect illegal immigrants from deportation by limiting their interaction with federal immigration authorities. A county or city could refuse to detain an illegal immigrant in jail without just cause.

In Howard County, police would be able to ask about a person's citizenship status if they are investigating a crime. 

"If I for example am a victim of domestic violence I can call the police and say my partner is beating me, and not have them say, well let me make sure you're not an illegal immigrant before i come help you out," Getty said.

The councilors who proposed the bill, both Democrats, say their constituents are concerned about diversity and inclusion once President-Elect Donald Trump officially becomes president. Kittleman said he's concerned about any legislature going into effect before Trump is in office, saying he won't know what Trump will do.

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