Maryland Dodges Becoming a Sanctuary State for another Year
By Shari Rendall | April 11, 2019
The Maryland state legislature adjourned its 2019 regular session on April 8. Every one of numerous bills to make the Old Line State into a sanctuary for illegal aliens has now died. However, similar measures are almost certain to return yet again next year as they now have repeatedly.
This year, the open-borders crowd tried a new tactic and split different sanctuary policies into multiple separate bills for each chamber. Senate Bill (SB) 817 and House Bill (HB) 913 and would have barred state and local law enforcement from honoring immigration detainers or notifying Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) of an illegal alien’s release date. SB 718 and HB 1165 would have forbidden asking about anyone’s immigration status and stopping or detaining them for being suspected illegal aliens. And SB 599 and HB 1273 would have tried to lock (ICE) out of schools, hospitals and courthouses.
The Senate considered its bills in marathon sessions of the Judicial Proceedings Committee at the end of February. The Maryland Sheriffs Association and Chiefs of Police Association took official positions opposing the bills and Sheriffs Jeff Gahler (Harford County) and Chuck Jenkins (Frederick County) testified against the bills, as did FAIR staff, Angel Families, legal immigrants, and others. Gary McElhaney, Assistant Secretary at the state’s Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DOC), made clear that SB 817 in particular “would severely jeopardize public safety.”
Zhenya Li, President of the Maryland Chinese American Network, said, “[s]anctuary policies endanger public safety and incentivize more illegal immigration ... And for those of us who came to this country legally, anything that undermines U.S. immigration enforcement is a slap in the face,” while James Walden, whose son Marine Lance Cpl. James Walden III was killed by an illegal alien, added that “[t]he lines of communication between our federal, state, and local authorities concerning immigration should be widened not narrowed[.]"
Ultimately, the committee’s chairman, Senator Robert Zirkin (D-Baltimore County), a sanctuary skeptic, never held votes on the bills, which therefore died in committee when the legislature adjourned.
The House bills were considered in its Judiciary Committee on March 5. HB 1273 passed the House on March 16 and HB 1165 on March 18, both by wide margins roughly along party lines. But both were then referred to Zirkin’s committee in the Senate and never received a hearing there.
Unlike in 2017 when he issued a formal veto threat in the immediate aftermath of the Rockville High rape case that made national news, Governor Larry Hogan (R) did not take an official position.
Maryland has a history of frequent special sessions, which can be called either by the governor or a petition signed by a majority of legislators. But so far, there haven’t been noticeable demands for any special sessions this year. If a special session is called, seeing similar bills back on the agenda wouldn’t be surprising. Otherwise, they’re likely to reappear in the 2020 regular session.