Maryland Passes Sanctuary Bills: Governor Promises to Veto
FAIR Take | April 2021
After many years of open borders groups pushing for it, the Maryland General Assembly on April 12, late on the last night of its annual session, passed two bills that would impose dangerous sanctuary policies statewide. Governor Larry Hogan (R) has long promised to veto such legislation but has yet to do so. The fate of the Old Line State hangs in the balance.
House Bill (HB) 23, sponsored by Delegate Dana Stein (D-Baltimore County) requires state and local agencies and contractors to deny access to “personal information” and facial recognition searches to federal agencies for the purpose of immigration enforcement unless provided with a judicial warrant or other court order. It passed the House of Delegates 97-42 and the Senate 32-14.
HB 16, the “Dignity Not Detention Act,” sponsored by Del. Vaughn Stewart (D-Montgomery County) was throughout almost all of session a ban on immigration detention contracts. However, on the last day of session, it was amended with additional language from the proposed “Trust Act,” to make it into a more general sanctuary state bill, which:
- 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.
Republican legislators pushed back on the original immigration detention ban in HB 16 as “stifl[ing] economic opportunity for the state’s smaller jurisdictions but preventing them from entering into potentially lucrative contracts with [Immigration and Customs Enforcement ] ICE.” Debate then grew even more heated as they objected to amending the portions of the Trust Act onto the bill, which they argued should pass or fail on its own as a separate bill.
Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins (R) spoke out against the bills, and noted that in his cooperation with ICE through the 287(g) program, “[s]ince 2008, this program has been very effective — removing 1,582 criminals from our streets, placing them in removal proceedings. One hundred eleven of those were validated criminal gang members, mostly affiliated with MS-13 … This program has kept our streets safer.”
Opposing HB 16 on the Senate floor, Senator Robert Cassilly (R-Harford County) “described a scenario in which a suspected gang member enters the United States illegally. Law enforcement are unable to obtain a judicial warrant for his arrest because they lack sufficient evidence. The gang member is arrested on a minor gun charge but is released because the police don’t honor ICE’s detainer request.”
As the legislature debated, Gov. Hogan held a press conference where he said, “I would veto any sanctuary bill that passed the legislature today … Hopefully that won’t happen. But we would definitely veto that.” Although both bills have passed, they have not yet been sent to his desk.
Should the governor follow through and veto either bill, the legislature might or might not be able to muster the 3/5 supermajorities needed in both chambers for an override, particularly on HB 16. Democrats outnumber Republicans 99-42 in the House and 32-15 in the Senate, so they would have the numbers without needing any support from the minority party, but they couldn’t lose many Democrat votes, and as the original votes on passage made clear, they can’t be certain of all staying together on this. On HB 16, if they lost just one more vote in the Senate or two more in the House, an override would fail, sustaining Hogan’s veto and defeating the bill.
Additionally, because the legislature has already adjourned, under the Maryland Constitution they would not have the opportunity to attempt an override until the next regular or special session. The next regular session will not convene until January of 2022. However, a special session sometime before then is likely for redistricting after the final release of numbers from the Census.
If the legislature ultimately overrode the governor’s veto and the sanctuary bills became law, the state constitution also allows the voters to petition for a referendum to repeal them. This would require signatures from 3% of voters who voted in the last gubernatorial election, or 69,135, in order to get on the November 2022 general election ballot.