Voters in Maryland’s Howard County Could Have Opportunity to Overturn County’s Sanctuary Ordinance
FAIR Take | February 2021
A group of activists committed to helping ensure our nation’s immigration laws are enforced has taken a big step toward that goal in Howard County, Maryland. The county passed a reckless new sanctuary law in December 2020, but the activists have submitted thousands of signatures to attempt to put a referendum against the law on the ballot for voters to decide.
The so-called “Liberty Act,” Council Bill (CB) 63-2020, passed the Howard County Council by a vote of 4-1 on December 7 and was signed into law by Howard County Executive Calvin Ball (D) on December 10. It provides for:
- No enforcement by county employees of federal immigration law or assistance with enforcing federal immigration law, including criminal violations of immigration law
- No expenditure of county resources, funds, personnel, etc., on federal immigration enforcement
- No asking people about their or anyone else’s immigration status
- No disclosing information to immigration enforcement authorities
- Participation in multi-jurisdictional law enforcement task forces only if they aren’t for civil immigration enforcement and don’t require disclosure of immigration status information
- Narrow exceptions for pre-existing agreements with Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), as the county still has a detention contract to hold illegal aliens in its jail while they go through the deportation process
Lisa Kim, the chairwoman of Citizens For A Strong And Safe Howard County, immediately started the process of gathering signatures to petition for a referendum in which the county's voters could reject CB 63-2020. In 2017, Kim was heavily involved in stopping the last attempt to make Howard County into a sanctuary for illegal aliens when the council passed similar legislation but was vetoed by then-County Executive Allan Kittleman (R). While the council attempted to override the veto, the effort failed.
Kim says “[w]e thought 2017 was the end of it. The petition [now] is to get it onto the ballot so the public can have their say.”
Under the Howard County Charter, to get a referendum on the ballot, signatures have to be delivered to the board of elections within 60 days of the law being enacted, which for CB 63-2020 was February 8. The number of signatures required is 5 percent of voter turnout in the 2018 election, which Kim estimates at 7,170. If more than half the number of signatures is delivered (but not the full amount required), the deadline is extended for thirty days. This extension kicked-in when the activists submitted 6,885 signatures.
They now have until March 10 to provide the remaining signatures. According to Kim, they plan to submit more than 11,000 signatures to ensure they meet the requirements during the signature verification process.
Should the required number of signatures be submitted and verified, the referendum would be on the general election ballot in November 2022.Howard County residents can find out more about signing petitions and supporting the referendum by Clicking Here.