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By Will Racke
Dozens of Baltimore County residents who want the local jail to participate in a federal initiative to identify criminal alien prisoners made their case at a hearing Tuesday evening, but lawmakers appear unlikely to pass a bill authorizing the program.
Concerned citizens voiced their support during a debate over County Councilmember Todd Crandell’s proposal to enroll Baltimore County in the so-called 287(g) program, which trains correctional officers to conduct immigration investigations on jail detainees.
Backers argued the authorization is needed to ensure that illegal immigrant gang members don’t return to the streets after stints in the county jail, the Baltimore Sun reported.
“We want to get people who can do us harm off the streets,” said Cockeysville, Md. resident Kathryn Jerraro.
Other residents said the program wouldn’t affect law-abiding immigrants because it only targets jail inmates. Mark Baskervill, a volunteer with the libertarian group Baltimore County Campaign for Liberty, delivered a box of petitions in support of the 287(g) program, asking council members: “Do you want to attract illegal immigrant criminals or not to Baltimore County?”
“The 287(g) is clearly targeting only criminals who commit further crimes beyond just illegally immigrating here,” he added.
Crandell’s fellow Republican councilmembers, Wade Kach and David Marks, are co-sponsoring the bill, but opposition from four Democratic members and County Executive Kevin Kamenetz makes it unlikely to pass. The measure would need the support of two Democrats in order to override Kamenetz’s promised veto.
Although Crandell has not yet managed to win the support of any Democratic councilmembers, he hopes an appeal to public safety might bring them around. (RELATED: Baltimore State’s Attorney Tells Prosecutors To Ease Off Illegal Immigrants)
At a rally before the council hearing, Kamenetz called the bill an attack on immigrant communities and reiterated his previous opposition, WBAL 1090 reported.
“Not only is this bill unconstitutional, it is un-American,” he said. “Be assured, as a real leader, I will veto it.”
Kamenetz, who is considering a run for governor next year, has a history of taking action to limit county cooperation with federal immigration authorities. He signed in April an executive order that bars county police and executive departments from honoring immigration detention requests absent a judicial warrant.
The county council is expected to vote on the 287(g) bill during a session at 6 p.m. on Monday.