Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday denounced legislation in Maryland that would limit cooperation between local jurisdictions and federal immigration authorities, saying the bill — which Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has vowed to veto — “makes the state of Maryland more at risk for violence and crime.”
Sessions appeared at the daily White House news briefing to warn that the Justice Department will begin using federal law to prevent any “sanctuary cities” from receiving much coveted federal grants for state and local law enforcement.
In response to a question about the alleged rape of a 14-year-old Rockville High School student by two undocumented immigrants also enrolled at the school, Sessions specifically cited the Maryland Law Enforcement and Trust Act, which passed the House of Delegates last week and is awaiting Senate action.
“Well, you know, Maryland is talking about a state law, to make the state a sanctuary state,” Sessions said. “The governor is opposed to that, I’m glad to hear.”
“That would be such a mistake,” he said of the bill. “I would plead with the people of Maryland to understand that this makes the state of Maryland more at risk for violence and crime, that it’s not good policy.”
Del. Kathleen M. Dumais (D-Montgomery), who is a co-sponsor of the legislation and defended it during floor debates, said the measure does not prevent corrections officers or local law enforcement from cooperating with federal agents when undocumented immigrants have committed serious crimes.
“Before criticizing proposed legislation, I suggest that Attorney General Sessions take time to actually read the bill,” she said. “The Trust Act certainly does not make Maryland more at risk for crime and violence. Anyone who commits a crime or violence in Maryland should be and is prosecuted to the full extent of the law, regardless of immigration status.”
The Trust Act is similar in many respects to uncodified policies for handling illegal immigrants in place in Montgomery County and other Maryland suburbs.
It would bar the use of local or state resources to assist in enforcement of federal immigration law. It would also prohibit most Maryland jurisdictions from holding undocumented prisoners for 48 hours past their release date, something federal authorities sometimes request in the form of a detainer — although the prohibition would not apply if federal agents have a warrant or court order describing probable cause.
Montgomery officials have long contended that such an approach, which was recommended by a 2014 Maryland state attorney general’s opinion, does not put the county in the same “sanctuary” category as localities like San Francisco that have far more stringent rules about collaboration.
The proposed state legislation would allow the two Maryland counties that participate in a special federal program to use local police to help with immigration enforcement — Frederick and Harford counties — to continue to do so. It also bars establishment of a state registry for Muslims.
Josh Hicks contributed to this report.