Frederick County sheriff vows to protest immigration legislation

Maryland Trust Act would dilute powers of local agencies

Sheriff vows to protest immigration legislation

Sheriff Chuck Jenkins at a HRC community forum. Aug 2013 Staff photo by Bill Green Sheriff Chuck Jenkins at a HRC community forum. Aug 2013 Staff photo by Bill Green

Would you support a law that prevented local police agencies from enforcing federal immigration law?
Yes 19%
No 81%


This is a backdoor effort to destroy secure communities. What they’re trying to do is create a state law to break federal law.

Chuck Jenkins
Frederick County sheriff

Posted: Wednesday, November 20, 2013 2:00 am
By Daniel J. Gross and Kelsi Loos News-Post

Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins has vowed to call every Maryland legislator in protest if a proposed bill curtailing enforcement of immigration law is introduced in the state's 2014 General Assembly.

State Sen. Victor Ramirez, D-Prince George's, announced Tuesday plans to introduce the Maryland Trust Act, which would eliminate local law enforcement agencies' involvement in detaining immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally.

"This is a backdoor effort to destroy secure communities," Jenkins said. "What they're trying to do is create a state law to break federal law. ... This is another step toward another level of social chaos in this state."

Some local immigrant advocates emphasized that illegal immigration is a civil violation, not a criminal act, and said immigrants here illegally should not be treated like dangerous criminals. Traffic stops or other minor violations should not lead to a deportation case, Centro Hispano director Maria Shuck said.

Since 2008, the Frederick County Sheriff's Office has partnered with U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement to detain illegal immigrants at the Frederick County Adult Detention Center. At the start of the partnership, 16 correctional officers and 10 deputies became deputized ICE agents to handle deportation proceedings at the jail.

The American Civil Liberties Union released a report on immigration detainers Tuesday in connection with Ramirez' announcement.

The report,"Restoring Trust: How Immigration Detainers in Maryland Undermine Public Safety Through Unnecessary Enforcement," states that immigration detainers waste public safety resources and cripple the public's trust in local law enforcement.

Some local advocates working with immigrants here illegally reached the same conclusion. Ray Garza, chairman of the Frederick Immigration Coalition, and Shuck both said that enforcing civil immigration warrants, in the absence of a criminal act, creates a deep hesitancy among the immigrant community to go to the police.

If the proposed legislation passed and were ruled constitutional, Garza said, it would help alleviate fears of deportation and racial profiling among immigrants.

Many immigrants, here both with and without authorization, believe they could stopped and asked for immigration papers at any time, he said, and some feel under scrutiny and pressure.

Under official sheriff's office policy, deputies cannot perform random checks and may ask a person's immigration status only after an arrest is made. However, Garza said, cases like that of Roxana Orellana Santos, a woman arrested by deputies on an immigration warrant while eating a sandwich outside her workplace, send a message to all immigrants.

Jenkins said the perception that enforcing immigration law creates a fear of law enforcement officials is untrue.

Jessica Vaughn, director of policy studies at the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies, said laws passed in other states are based on a false premise that immigrants will stop reporting crimes and stop trusting police.

Law enforcement agencies struggle to garner public trust for reporting crimes, she said, and programs such as anonymous tip lines encourage public participation in policing.

"Crime reporting is a problem in all jurisdictions, but stopping immigration law enforcement isn't going to make it better," she said.

The proposed Maryland law, if enacted, would create more crime in communities, Vaughn said.

"People who are illegal aliens, who have been arrested for local crimes, end up getting released and are able to stay in (the) community when they could have been deported," she said. "Far too often, they go on to keep doing reckless behaviors they were arrested for in the first place."

According to ICE statistics, about 92 percent of the people identified and referred to ICE in Frederick County either have criminal convictions or are repeat violators of immigration law.

Federal regulations calls for local law enforcement to maintain custody of immigrants who entered the country illegally if they are arrested on suspicion of other crimes, Jenkins said.

"If any chief of police of sheriff abides by this, they are thumbing their nose at Americans," he said. "They're saying we want to ignore federal law."

Shuck and Garza both said it is not the place of local law enforcement to enforce federal law, a policy followed by the Frederick Police Department, which tells its officers not to enforce immigration warrants.

“I just feel they have bigger fish to fry,” Shuck said.

Overall, Shuck and Garza said they thought the proposed legislation would be positive for all immigrants.

“Centro Hispano supports any legislation that protects the rights and dignity of any and all law-abiding people, including immigrants,” Shuck said.