Howard County Councilman Opel Jones Statement for Vote on CB51-2020

Council Bill 51-2020
Statement for Vote on CB51-2020
October 5, 2020

Over the past few weeks, I have read dozens of emails, Facebook posts, and tweets, and have had numerous conversations with constituents, advocates and proponents of this bill, and immigration lawyers. I appreciate your impassioned words, in wanting what is right and fair. Ultimately, I wish to ensure that all residents of Howard County, regardless of nationality or citizenship, shall have fair and equal access to county benefits, opportunities, and services.

Since this bill was introduced, I have conducted my own research via fact-finding and question-asking; my main objective to understand the language of CB51-2020. I reflected on the three dozen testimonies from the Public Hearing on Monday, September 21. Thus, I requested CB51 to be added to the Work Session held on Wednesday, September 23rd. Again, my goal was to find out more information about what this bill would do, or not do, if passed.

As many watching and listening tonight have kept up with social media regarding CB51, this bill has been touted to “end Howard County’s contract with ICE”. However, after conducting research, I find this bill raised more questions and does not solve the issue at hand. At the Public Hearing, I heard many testimonies with “hopes” of what could happen. For example, some “hoped” immigrants would be released to their homes wearing ankle monitors. However, the information I found shows this will not be the course of those detained. At most, it is minimally likely that that would be the case.

According to FIRN (Foreign-Born Information and Referral Network), an entity that has worked tirelessly for and with the immigrant community since 1981, and I quote, “CB-51-2020 fails to provide a comprehensive plan and solution to the resulting transfer of Howard County detainees to other ICE detention centers, more likely in less-welcoming and less-progressive communities.” This was a grave concern to me, so I asked the question in the Work Session, “If the contract is to be canceled, where will the detainees go?” The sponsor of the bill replied, and I quote, “It doesn’t matter where they go, it is the fact they are being picked up by ICE, this will stop them from being picked up here in our home county”. Unfortunately, the sponsor does not care where they will go; I do. I care where they go.

Dissatisfied with the answer, I conducted more research, to find out where detainees would go if CB51 passes. According to Professor Maureen Sweeney, Director of the Immigration Clinic at the University of Maryland Carey School of Law, and I quote, “Immigrants from Howard County and other local areas with no serious criminal history can now be sent to other detention centers anywhere in the United States. There is no guarantee they will be held in Maryland. They could end up far from support networks of family and friends, in rural detention centers in Georgia, Virginia, Louisiana, or North Carolina, with some of the worst reputations in the country for unsanitary, unsafe, and abusive conditions.” And let me add, that according to Jack Kavanaugh, Director of the Howard County Detention Center, 25% of the detainees reside in Howard County, and anywhere from 80-90% of the detainees at any time reside in the Washington Metropolitan Area.

Another point I found interesting in my research, was the notion that if CB51 passes, that ICE would no longer be in Howard County. I received many emails and saw signs on the road (most illegally placed I might add), to “keep ICE out of HoCo.” The fact of the matter is, if CB51 passes, it does absolutely nothing to keep ICE, or any other federal agency, out of Howard County.

Professor Sweeney states, and I quote, “It will NOT end immigration detention or ICE arrests in Howard County… ICE will continue to pick up Howard County and other Maryland residents with and without criminal records and will continue to put them in detention – just not likely in Howard County.”

This leads me to yet another point, one which is very disturbing, that of the possibility of pro bono legal representation here in Howard County, and Maryland as a whole. FIRN states, and I quote, “As the Vera Institute of Justice has shown through its SAFE Cities Network and the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project, access to legal representation is the principal factor in successfully advocating for both release from immigration detention and ultimately prevailing in removal proceedings. In sum, were Howard County to end its contract with ICE, the transfer of local community members to other facilities may indeed make access to counsel — as well as humanitarian access to their families—extremely difficult, if not impossible.” In the coming weeks and months, I look forward to ways to help with this funding for those in need of representation.

According to the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, specifically the December 2015 issue, those with representation are five and a half times more likely to win their case when represented by counsel.

Howard County is comprised of immigrants from throughout the world who contribute to our community’s social vitality, cultural richness, and economic strength. I understand the frustration and concern surrounding the topic of immigration, especially as it has been heightened here in America in the recent years.

I too, share the vision that changes in the form of legislation must be done to protect those contributing members to our community. I know that this must be done in the most impactful way that does not cause further harm to the immigrants and their families. Therefore, in the coming weeks, I will be introducing legislation along the lines of a TRUST Act, or TRUST policies. This is an issue I ran on, which I supported then, and wholeheartedly support now. Howard County has a strong tradition of leadership on issues of human rights, respecting the rights of and providing equal services to all individuals, regardless of race, ethnicity, or immigration status. Howard County has never participated in the 287(g) program. The Howard County Detention Center has never housed any women or children in the ICE section of the detention center since the beginning of the contract in 1995.

Furthermore, the new policy changes from our County Executive address major issues to the contract while keeping public and personal safety at the forefront of our daily lives.

The safety from violent offenders, as defined in Md. Criminal Law Code Annotated section 14-101, which includes murder, manslaughter, rape, robbery, and more serious sexual assaults and sexual offenses, is paramount to all Howard County residents. This reinforces the fact that legislation needs to be presented and passed that will support this in the most efficient and effective way. At this time, CB51-2020 will not solve the bigger concern of keeping families together, thus I vote NO on CB51-2020.


Here is the statement from Howard County Executive Calvin Ball in this topic:  County Executive Calvin Ball will be vetoing CB-51; legislation to cancel Howard County’s contract with ICE

Scott E

One comment

  1. Great Job Mr. Ball on CB-51. Now please step up and stop this move to remove the Howard County Police Department ( School Resource Officer ) Program from the Schools. The schools are ” Soft ” Targets and the program has worked. Sadly, the attacker’s have found another “Soft” target in the church. Billy Vogel – Retired MSP & HCPD


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