FROM AOL MESSAGE BOARD – Article by Erin Cunningham on the Arizona Act.
Lawmakers might sponsor Arizona-type billACLU says law would lead to racial profiling, civil rights violationsWednesday, May 12, 2010
By ERIN CUNNINGHAM
At least two state delegates are considering sponsoring get-tough illegal immigration legislation in Maryland replicating a new Arizona law that has drawn criticism from Hispanics, the ACLU and President Barack Obama.
The law requires state and local police to question those suspected of being illegal immigrants about their immigration status, and immigrants would have to be ready to prove their citizenship at any time. Under the law, police would arrest those who cannot prove they are in the country legally.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers already perform those checks, but supporters of the bill say not enough enforcement is being done at the federal level.
The Arizona bill was signed into law April 23.
However, anti-illegal immigration legislation has fared poorly in the Maryland General Assembly, and even those introducing the bills do not believe they’ll succeed in a heavily Democratic legislature.
"Maryland is infested with politicians that are basically advocates for illegals," said Del. Patrick L. McDonough (R-Baltimore, Harford).
If re-elected in November, McDonough said he will introduce Arizona’s bill in Maryland. Parts of the bill are similar to the 11 anti-illegal-immigration bills he has introduced in the past eight years.
"I’m not Johnny-come-lately," he said. "I’ve been fighting for this issue."
Del. Charles A. Jenkins (R-Frederick, Washington) said he planned to discuss the Arizona bill with Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins, who has been at the forefront of the issue. The two are unrelated.
Sheriff Jenkins’ agency participates in the 287g illegal immigration enforcement program, which, since January 2006 has identified more than 70,000 people mostly in jails who are suspected of being in the country illegally.
Del. Jenkins said he planned to either introduce a modified bill based on Sheriff Jenkins’ suggestions or speak with McDonough about co-sponsoring an identical bill.
Advocates estimate that Maryland has between 230,000 and 350,000 illegal immigrants.
"They were drawn to Maryland because we made it easy for them," Del. Jenkins said. "But you can roll up the welcome mat and say we’re not going to be a sanctuary state."
McDonough said his concerns are gangs, drugs and crime, which he associates with illegal immigrants.
He decided to announce his intent to file the bill before the start of the 2011 General Assembly session and before November to make immigration an election-year issue.
McDonough said he will send a letter to every state elected leader, including Gov. Martin O’Malley and his challengers, asking whether they would support his bill. The results of that poll will be posted on McDonough’s website, he said.
"This will have a major impact on the governor’s race," he said.
However, neither O’Malley nor his top Republican opponent, former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R), has focused on immigration in their early campaign speeches.
In a statement to The Gazette, O’Malley campaign manager Tom Russell said: "It is the federal government’s job to protect our borders and reform immigration laws and enforcement. We won’t be taking Arizona’s approach here. But we will always work with immigration enforcement."
Ehrlich spokesman Andy Barth said the former governor has not studied the Arizona bill, but opposes illegal immigration.
However, it is unlikely that such legislation would make it to the governor’s desk in Maryland, and groups already are lining up to challenge the constitutionality of the Arizona bill.
"Let’s see how far it goes," said Sen. Lisa A. Gladden (D-Baltimore city). "It might not go too far. We can copy Arizona if we want. The problem is there are going to be some court challenges."
The American Civil Liberties Union already has challenged the bill, said Ajmel Quereshi, an attorney with the ACLU’s Maryland chapter.
"The bill encourages racial profiling and betrays America’s core values," he said, adding that the law is a violation of civil rights.
"I think it’s just Profiling 101," said Del. Victor R. Ramirez (D-Prince George’s). "I think to stop someone and ask them to present certain identification based on their appearance is unconstitutional."
If he is re-elected, Ramirez said he will fight McDonough’s bill.
"I think it’s extreme," Ramirez said.
McDonough said the Arizona bill is identical to federal law.
The Arizona law violates the U.S. Constitution, Quereshi said, because the federal government, not the states, is responsible for determining legal status.
Also of concern is that local and state law enforcement officers would not be required to be trained in immigration enforcement under the law, Ajmel said.
Brad Botwin, director of Help Save Maryland, an anti-illegal immigration group, said there would be training for law enforcement.
Currently, four Maryland counties Prince George’s, Queen Anne’s, Frederick and St. Mary’s participate in a federal program called the Secure Communities initiative. Under the program, the counties agree to share fingerprints of charged suspects with the federal immigration department, which can screen for immigration violations. Montgomery County, meanwhile, does not participate in the program, but sends the names of suspected immigrants charged with violent crimes or weapons-related offenses to federal authorities.
Prince George’s joined the federal cooperation program in December. As of April 1, 109 people arrested in the county had been handed over to ICE officials. Last week, immigrant advocacy group Casa of Maryland led 45 protesters in response to the April 20 arrest by Prince George’s County police of Florinda Faviola Lorenzo-Desimilian, a married mother of three young children. She was charged with a misdemeanor and flagged for possible deportation for allegedly selling prepaid phone cards without a license from her Langley Park home.
Gustavo Torres, executive director of Casa of Maryland, said McDonough’s bill has no chance in Maryland and accused the delegate of political gamesmanship.
"He is trying to be in the media right now because (of the election)," Torres said, calling the bill racist. He believes Maryland is too progressive to approve it.
Lawmakers in Utah and Oklahoma also are considering introducing similar legislation, according to Brad Botwin, director of Help Save Maryland, an anti-illegal immigration group.
He said the bill would be good for Maryland, but said some elected leaders, such as O’Malley and Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D), have resisted immigration reform.
Without his bill, McDonough said illegal immigrants will flood Maryland driving up the costs of education, health care and other government services.
"People go where they are wanted," he said. "They do not go where they are not wanted. They’re going to come across the Potomac on rowboats. It will be like the Cubans going to Florida."