On December 10th, Howard County Executive Calvin Ball signed CB-63, The Liberty Act, which prevents County employees from asking about the immigration status of residents, discriminating based on immigration status, and requiring that certain information related to citizenship be kept confidential in Howard County. Additionally, Ball penned a letter to the Biden Administration Transition Team emphasizing the need for changes to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and their current operations around the country.
“Four years ago, I co-sponsored CB-9, a bill that would protect undocumented immigrants in Howard County from discrimination,” said Ball. “This legislation was important to me to help protect many of our residents who lived in constant fear of being detained and deported as they worked hard to support their families and children. Several components of this legislation are already practiced by our departments and today, I am proud to sign Council Member Dr. Opel Jones’ Liberty Act legislation to further protect innocent, undocumented residents in Howard County. Furthermore, to build upon our local progress with the passage of CB-63 and evoke real change at the federal level, my administration has reached out to the Biden Transition Team to begin conversations about the serious need for reform of ICE and the disturbing actions we’ve seen around the country to intimidate and persecute immigrants working towards a better life.”
In September, Ball changed qualifications for Howard County Detention Center to only hold ICE detainees who been convicted of a crime of violence as defined in Md. Criminal Law Code Annotated section 14-101. Under the previous policy, the Department of Corrections could house ICE detainees who have been charged with or convicted of jailable offenses. The list of violent crimes included in the statute has been defined by the Maryland General Assembly and examples of such crimes include murder, manslaughter, rape, robbery, and more serious assaults and sexual offenses.
“This historic legislation addresses inequities that face our communities, specifically the underrepresented and vulnerable immigrant communities,” said Council Member Opel Jones. “These major challenges that face our immigrant communities, face all of us since we are community of one. Every resident of this great county prides themselves on an all-inclusive community theme that boasts to ‘Choose Civility.’ Drafting this legislation, promoting, and garnering support for it renewed this legislative urgency.”
Howard County does not currently participate and has never participated in the 287(g) program like in Cecil, Frederick, and Harford counties during over 25 years of this contract. As noted in Ball’s letter to the incoming Biden Administration, the way immigration has been weaponized at the federal level in recent years is troubling and unacceptable. Moreover, the Howard County Detention Center does not and never has housed women or children. Additionally, Howard County Police are not involved in any way with transporting ICE detainees in custody or to the Detention Center. ICE agents make the arrests, process all intakes at their Baltimore field office, and then use a private contractor to transport detainees to the Howard County Detention Center.