Maryland Governor Vetoes Sanctuary Bills
FAIR Take | June 2021
As promised, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (R) vetoed two bills passed by the state legislature that would make Maryland into a sanctuary state. An override of his veto is possible but is not certain.
House Bill (HB) 23, sponsored by Delegate Dana Stein (D-Baltimore County) requires state and local agencies and contractors to deny federal agencies access to “personal information” and facial recognition searches for the purpose of immigration enforcement unless they have been provided with a judicial warrant or other court order. It passed the Maryland House of Delegates by a vote of 97-42 and passed the Senate by a vote of 32-14. This bill was strongly opposed by the Maryland Department of Transportation who argued “it would make it difficult to coordinate with the federal government on homeland security, particularly at the Port of Baltimore and Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.”
The other bill, HB 16, the “Dignity Not Detention Act,” sponsored by Del. Vaughn Stewart (D-Montgomery County) was initially solely a ban on immigration detention contracts. However, on the last day of the legislative session, it was amended with language from the proposed “Trust Act” making Maryland a sanctuary state if the legislature overrides the veto. The version that passed the legislature but was vetoed by Gov. Hogan:
- Prohibits state and local law enforcement from asking about anyone’s immigration status or birthplace;
- Forbids detaining or extending the detention of anyone on suspicion of being an illegal alien, to investigate their immigration status or for transfer to federal immigration authorities “unless required by federal law;”
- Bans state agencies and local governments from future contracting with private entities regarding immigration detention;
- Bans local governments from zoning or other regulatory approval of private immigration detention facilities unless they go through a complex set of hearings and administrative approvals; and
- Requires any existing immigration detention contracts by local governments to exercise the termination provisions of the contract by October 2022.
HB 16 passed by notably narrower margins than HB 23, 86-46 in the House (with seven abstentions) and 30-17 in the Senate. In past legislative sessions, the language added to HB 16 at the last minute has been strongly opposed by local law enforcement, including both the Maryland Sheriffs Association and Maryland Chiefs of Police Association. This year, despite little time to respond to the amendments, several law enforcement officials including Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins (R) and Harford County Sheriff Jeff Gahler condemned it again.
Both bills passed on April 12, late at night in the last few hours of the legislative session.
Throughout the legislative session, Gov. Hogan repeatedly stressed the dangers of the bills, implored legislators not to pass them, and issued a veto threat against them. He vetoed both bills when they reached his desk on May 26. In his veto message, the governor stated that “[l]ocal law enforcement should fully cooperate with federal law enforcement—a principle I have consistently upheld throughout three federal administrations led by presidents from both political parties. Flawed legislation such as this sets a dangerous precedent regarding the state’s commitment to upholding the law and ensuring the safety of our citizens.” He further emphasized that “[w]e need to ensure that our law enforcement officers have every tool at their disposal in order to keep our citizens safe and protect them from felons, terrorists, repeat violent offenders, domestic abusers, and sexual predators, regardless of immigration status.”
According to the Maryland Constitution, since the legislature had adjourned its session, it will not have an opportunity to try to override the veto until the next regular or special session. The next regular session convenes January 2022. However, a special session may be called earlier to address potential redistricting issues after the final release of population numbers from the Census.
Democrats could override the veto without any Republican support since they outnumber Republicans 99-42 in the House and 32-15 in the Senate. However, in order to do so, they could not lose many Democrat votes. If the previous votes on these bills are any indication, they can’t be assured of staying together on this. An override attempt on HB 16 fails if Democrats lose one more vote in the Senate or two more in the House. The fate of the override attempt could rest with the Democrat Members who abstained in the original vote (Dels. Erek Barron (D-Prince George’s County), Harry Bhandari (D-Baltimore County), Michele Guyton (D-Baltimore County), Carl Jackson (D-Baltimore County), Jay Jalisi (D-Baltimore County), Jay Walker (D-Baltimore County) and C.T. Wilson (Charles County)).
Marylanders who support public safety and the rule of law need to immediately urge their state legislators to oppose efforts to override Gov. Hogan’s veto.