Maryland, Connecticut Legislatures Stymie Efforts To Expand Sanctuary Protections
By Shari Rendall | April 12, 2018
As many state legislatures began wrapping up their 2018 legislative sessions, one thing is apparent. The pendulum that has been swinging towards shielding criminal aliens at the expense of public safety seems to be swinging back in the other direction. Open border advocates were unable to garner a sanctuary victory in Maryland or expand so-called "sanctuary protections" in Connecticut.
For the past two years, the Old Line State considered legislation to make Maryland a sanctuary state. Last year, the Trust Act, House Bill (HB) 1362, passed the House but was stopped in its tracks in the Senate over an alleged rape by two illegal aliens at a Rockville high school and a veto threat by Governor Larry Hogan (R-MD). This year’s bill, HB 1461, which received a fancy new title the "SAFE Act" (Supporting All Families Everywhere) but included the same language from last year, did not even make it out of the House Judiciary Committee. The SAFE Act would:
- forbid law enforcement from asking about anyone's immigration status or birthplace;
- forbid law enforcement from providing information to immigration authorities about anyone’s address or location without a judicial warrant;
- forbid law enforcement and corrections officers from honoring immigration detainers unless accompanied by a judicial warrant;
- forbid state and local governments and their officers/employees from spending funds on creating or maintaining "registries" based on immigration status, or from providing information to the federal government or another state to do the same;
- instruct the state's Attorney General to develop guidelines for attempting to keep immigration authorities out of schools, hospitals and courthouses;
- provide immunity to anyone who complied with its terms from civil and even criminal liability, and make them eligible to be reimbursed by the state for costs; and
- make anyone who violated its terms eligible for disciplinary action, including termination from employment, as well as making them ineligible for any reimbursement by the state.
In a marathon hearing in Annapolis on March 13, the Maryland House Judiciary Committee considered the sanctuary bill alongside two anti-sanctuary bills, HB 1308 and HB 1549. FAIR staff attended and offered testimony, as well as provided support for three of Maryland’s sheriffs and dozens of activists who were there to voice their opposition to dangerous sanctuary policies. While the committee voted down the anti-sanctuary bills, they never took a vote on the pro-sanctuary bill before the legislature adjourned on April 9. While it is possible that it could be considered in a special session, there have been no indications this will happen.
Connecticut has been a sanctuary state since 2013, when it passed its so-called "Trust Act," HB 6659. The Trust Act forbids state and local law enforcement from holding illegal aliens for immigration authorities on detainers unless they are convicted felons, suspected terrorists, or have final orders of deportation or removal. Seeking to expand Connecticut's law along the lines of California, Oregon, and Illinois, House Bill (HB) 5543 was introduced this year.
The new bill would impose a number of dangerous new sanctuary policies statewide. In brief, it would:
- forbid law enforcement from honoring immigration detainers without a judicial warrant, eliminating the exceptions that sometimes allow for detainer compliance under current law;
- forbid law enforcement from notifying Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) of a person's custody status or release date unless the person consents, is being investigated criminally for possible terrorism, or otherwise required by law;
- forbid law enforcement from allowing ICE access to people in custody for interviews; and
- forbid law enforcement from "[p]erform[ing] any function of an immigration officer," specifically prohibiting 287(g) agreements with ICE but also any other similar agreement or policy.
The bill's sponsor, Rep. William Tong (D-Stamford) described his sanctuary legislation as a "clarification" of people's responsibility under the so-called "Trust Act." The legislature's Joint Committee on the Judiciary had the sanctuary bill on its agenda for a March 26 hearing and again on April 4, but it was never considered – in large part thanks to the efforts of Rep. Rob Sampson (R- Wolcott), who worked with FAIR and local activists to kill it.
While Connecticut is still in regular session until May 9, the deadline for bills to pass out of the committee was April 11. A two-thirds majority of either the House or Senate chamber is required to waive or suspend this deadline and that is very unlikely to happen with the composition of Connecticut's legislature. Currently, Democrats have only a 79-71 majority in the House, while the Senate is evenly divided between the parties, 18-18, and under Democrat control only because of Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman's tie-breaking vote.