Gov. Larry Hogan vetoed Wednesday what he criticized as “sanctuary state legislation,” which would have ended Worcester County’s role in federal immigration detention.
Known as the Dignity Not Detention Act, House Bill 16 was proposed to ban agreements to house federal immigration detainees in Maryland at the state or local level. Worcester and Frederick counties are the only Maryland jurisdictions that currently have these contracts.
A fiscal and policy note for the bill showed the counties were set to receive a combined $5 million from the federal government for fiscal year 2021 in exchange for holding ICE detainees in their local jails.
The largest share of that money was slated for Worcester County, where the expected $4 million in federal payments would account for about 42% of the local jail’s more than $9 million budget.
House Bill 16’s provisions would also have cut off the ability for local and state governments to benefit from or incentivize the creation of private immigration detention facilities alongside increasing transparency surrounding future proposals for such facilities.
The legislation passed on the final day of the General Assembly’s 2021 session after it was amended to include components of separate legislation on immigration enforcement as well.
The measure would have kept “specified state and local law enforcement agents from inquiring about an individual’s immigration status during the performance of regular police functions,” according to House Bill 16’s fiscal and policy note.
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In his veto message, Hogan pointed to that addition as the bill’s “most troubling” portion.
“As I have stated throughout my time in office, I remain steadfast in my opposition to any legislative or regulatory efforts that would hinder cooperation with federal law enforcement and make Maryland a sanctuary state,” the governor wrote.
Delegate Vaughn Stewart (D-Montgomery), House Bill 16’s sponsor, tweeted Wednesday afternoon that he looked forward to overriding the governor’s veto during the 2022 session
“Hogan plays a ‘moderate’ on MSNBC, but has never been a friend to our immigrant neighbors,” Stewart tweeted.
Hogan’s Wednesday announcement also included vetoes for a bill to prevent federal immigration authorities from accessing Maryland driver’s license records to run facial recognition searches, a bill that would have decriminalized drug paraphernalia and legislation that would’ve repealed the governor’s role in approving parole for people serving life sentences.
Cathryn Paul, government relations and public policy manager for the immigrant rights advocacy organization CASA, called Hogan’s vetoes “a gut punch to hundreds of thousands of immigrants and their families across Maryland.”
“While the governor may claim to support Black and brown Marylanders, he has shown time and time again which lives matter most to him as he has actively worked to implement and maintain racist and anti-immigrant policies. The immigrant community, allies and legislators demonstrated an unprecedented show of unity to pass these bills and will remain unified until his vetoes are overridden,” Paul said in a statement.
Sen. Mary Beth Carozza (R-Somerset, Wicomico and Worcester) applauded the governor’s action in a Wednesday news release and stated, “I will continue to use my position to advocate for public safety, and when the Maryland General Assembly reconvenes in January 2022, I will vote to sustain these vetoes.”
Carozza also noted that the amendment she proposed during Senate Floor debate to exclude Worcester County from the legislation was rejected as the session approached its close. Delegate Wayne Hartman (R-Wicomico and Worcester) made a similar effort that was shot down by lawmakers while the bill was making its way through the House.
The Worcester County Commissioners opposed the legislation in written testimony submitted to lawmakers, emphasizing that “prohibition of these services and the resulting loss of revenues would be devastating to the operations of the Worcester County Jail.”
The jail has been housing as many as 200 detainees under its ICE contract since 1999, according to the commissioners’ letter. Part of the jail’s 2011 expansion included upping the bed capacity from 319 to 502 for summer influxes in detainees.
“We provide a safe and secure environment for these detainees who are pending processing under federal regulations, The Worcester County Jail, and others in Maryland, play a critical role in providing sufficient facilities ,” the commissioners wrote.