Saturday, March 18, 2017

More Than Words

I'm sharing this statement this morning in the hopes that it will be seen by more people. I agree that we need more than words to ensure that Howard County is "a place where diversity is our strength, and where neighborliness and civility are the standard," --jam

Local Groups Respond to Kittleman/Weinstein Immigration Announcement

On March 8, 2017, County Executive Kittleman and Council Chairman Weinstein made an announcement regarding proposals to address the needs of immigrants in Howard County.  At no time have these needs been greater.  Council Bill 9 (CB9), introduced by Council Members Calvin Ball and Jen Terrasa, would have codified Howard County’s existing practice whereby police officers and other county employees generally refrain from inquiring about immigration status and county police do not engage in enforcement of federal immigration law.  As anti-immigration rhetoric, hate crimes, and immigration enforcement soar to record levels in recent history across the country, we commend the bill’s sponsors for their efforts to keep Howard County a place where our diversity is our strength, and where neighborliness and civility are the standard.

We were extremely disappointed in the veto of CB9 and subsequent failure to override that veto.  While we appreciate that County Executive Kittleman and Chairman Weinstein understand the need for continued conversation regarding the bill, we cannot overlook this missed opportunity to stand for our beliefs and values, and to affirmatively reassure our immigrant neighbors that they are welcome in our county.  

Notably, many of the statements in the March 8 announcement echoed provisions of CB9.  Mr. Kittleman made a commitment that the county will not join in enforcement actions with ICE, and specifically that it will not participate in the 287(g) program.  He also stated that the county, in cooperation with FIRN, HopeWorks, and police, will develop policies to prevent police and other county agencies from inquiring about immigration status unless required by federal and state law. This policy will be written in clear language and posted online and communicated to both county employees and the community.

We believe that these commitments from the County Executive are a good first step, but are insufficient to address the high levels of uncertainty and fear that have been expressed by residents of Howard County, and specifically those that are undocumented and people of color.  

Just last Friday, another Howard County family was split apart, when they reported to ICE for a routine check-in.  We understand that the family has been checking in ever since a traffic accident in 2009, when Howard County police contacted ICE after the family’s vehicle was hit by a school bus.  The family includes two DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) students who were also detained on Friday.  As this family struggles to fight back against an aggressive immigration enforcement machine, our local politicians are quibbling over semantics.  

This case makes it clear that Howard County policy has not always adhered to the values outlined by the County Executive last week.  Moreover, mere policies can be changed without notice or any public process, whereas policies codified in law would provide a greater level of trust between the community and the government, consistent with the 
values of #OneHoward.  Thus, while we agree with Mr. Kittleman that not every problem can be solved with legislation, we continue to believe that legislation is necessary to effectively address these issues.

In addition to the commitments outlined by the County Executive, which we hope will be codified in legislation, we also think it is important to ensure that the new policies include an anonymous means of reporting violations by county employees, and that they specify a range of consequences for any such violations.

While we remain hopeful that our county leaders will rise to the occasion and introduce new legislation to codify the protections the County Executive outlined last week, we also look to the General Assembly to address this critical issue by passing the Maryland Trust Act (SB835/HB1362).  This legislation will extend the same provisions outlined in Howard County CB9 to the entire state of Maryland.  There has never been a more important time to stand up for our neighbors, and we hope that we can count on our state and county leaders to do so.  We look forward to Howard County truly being safe and welcoming for all.

Together We Will - Howard County
Young Democrats of Howard County
Howard County Muslim Council (HCMC)
African American Community Roundtable of Howard County (AACR)
Do the Most Good Howard County
Concerned Chinese Americans (CCA)
Howard County Education Association (HCEA)
Maryland State Education Association (MSEA)

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