Maryland Legislature Overrides Governor's Vetoes of Sanctuary Bills
FAIR Take | December 2021
The Maryland General Assembly convened on December 6 for a special session. The main focus of the special session is the redistricting process that states must complete every decade after the census. However, in addition to redistricting, the legislature voted to override Governor Larry Hogan’s (R) veto of a bill that bans immigration detention and makes Maryland a sanctuary state, as well as one that restricts sharing information with immigration authorities.
House Bill (HB) 16, the so-called “Dignity Not Detention Act,” sponsored by Delegate 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” to make Maryland a sanctuary state. It was vetoed by Gov. Hogan on May 26.
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 without a judicial warrant or other court order. 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.” Like HB 16, it was vetoed by Gov. Hogan on May 26.
In his veto message addressing both bills, Gov. Hogan 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.”
On December 7, both chambers voted to override both vetoes by more than the three-fifths supermajorities required under the state constitution. The House of Delegates voted 90-49 to override the veto of HB 16 and the Senate followed by 29-16. The override votes on HB 23 were 93-44 in the House and 30-15 in the Senate. No Republican lawmakers voted to override either veto. Representatives of various open-borders groups unsurprisingly cheered their victory.
However, this is not necessarily the end of the fight over sanctuary policies in Maryland. In addition to possible litigation, Maryland also has a referendum process for citizens to get recently enacted laws onto the ballot for possible repeal.