In the words of James Bond villain Alec Trevelyan, why can’t the Maryland Law Enforcement and Governmental Trust Act just be a good boy and die?
Last spring, legislation by the same name died in the Senate, much to the frustration of advocates of undocumented immigrants. Yet sure enough, some Maryland progressives and their allies, including the Maryland ACLU and CASA de Maryland, plan to resurrect the bill as soon as possible and have already held public forums to discuss just that.
For those new to the Trust Act (or at least its most recent version), the bill effectively makes Maryland a sanctuary state by limiting law enforcement’s cooperation with federal immigration efforts and banning state officers from investigating citizens’ immigration status. In the previous legislative session, the bill was roundly condemned as reckless by Democrats and Republicans alike. “Maryland is not going to become a sanctuary state,” Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) said of the bill.
Yet supporters of the bill say the measure will help “foster trust between immigrant/minority individuals and state/local government.” In redressing arguments suggesting the bill may make Maryland a magnet for criminals, supporters argue the opposite: that when trust exists between illegal immigrant communities and law enforcement, the former will be more likely to report crime. Thus, the Trust Act would in fact “make our families and communities safer” — or so the argument goes.
Admittedly, the theory makes sense (although it is unclear such newfound trust will offset a surge in violent crime, such as the one Northern Virginia and the Maryland suburbs of D.C. have seen with the expansion of MS-13). But before throwing their support behind the Trust Act’s latest reincarnation, Maryland lawmakers should take a moment to appreciate the foundational absurdity of this reasoning.
First, the only reason there is an illegal immigrant community distrustful of law enforcement and harboring criminal secrets is because of a consistent tolerance of illegal immigration in the first place. Reckless “come one, come all” policies at the local level have yielded reticent nests of criminality that are now, incredibly, insisting that it is our police force and citizenry that need to change. Put differently, supporters of the Trust Act want their fellow citizens to believe that it’s not dousing the house in gasoline that’s dangerous, it’s lighting the match.
Second, the trust argument steps all over the message pro-illegal immigration coalitions have been pushing for years: that permitting illegal immigration is a safe and commendable act of compassion. At the least, I am unsure how fueling human trafficking and inducing innocent immigrants to ensnare themselves in helpless and fearsome circumstances is an act of compassion.
It also calls into question the reliability of oft-cited statistics concerning the relationship between illegal immigration and crime. Marylanders are supposed to believe that immigrants commit less crime than U.S.-born citizens, yet also believe there is unreported crime occurring exclusively in illegal immigrant communities, right under the nose of law enforcement, which only sanctuary policy can correct.
Even assuming currently unreported crimes involve illegal immigrants as victims rather than perpetrators, the tension remains. In an interview with the New York Times, Silvia Pastor Finkelstein, director of the Office of Immigrant Affairs in the Nassau County (N.Y.) District Attorney’s Office, estimated that 95 percent of perpetrators of violent crime against illegal immigrants were themselves foreign-born. (Why “estimated”? Because as a matter of policy, the office remains willfully blind; like the Maryland Trust Act provides, it is not allowed to investigate the immigration status of the defendant. See the problem yet?).
Finally, there is the repulsiveness that comes with accommodating lawlessness. Federal law, especially that which concerns immigration, is a reflection of the will of the people and therefore deserves our respect. States, including Maryland, should be confronting the dangers of illegal immigration by working to make illegal immigration as unappealing as possible. Immigrants, particularly those escaping violence and economic hardship in Central America, deserve our help, and we should explore all possible ways to grant such relief, but lawfully so. Anything contrary is not “compassionate” — it’s appeasement.