Jen Terrasa and Calvin Ball, Democrat Council members, took the controversial topic of becoming a “Sanctuary City” to the Howard County Council’s monthly voting session, which was held on Tuesday, January 3, 2017. A Sanctuary City offers refuge to undocumented immigrants, already gaining regional and national attention, along with causing a lot of confusion throughout the nation.
The Howard County Council will take testimony on the bill on January 17. If the law is passed, it will place limitations on the enforcement of immigration laws, prohibit discrimination and bar inquiries into citizenship. John Weinstein and Mary Kay Sigaty, Democrat Council members are yet to take a position on the bill.
Confused residents are attempting to understand whether the bill is only to give a perception that the county is a sanctuary or if there will actually be policy changes. Retired naval officer, David Dobbs, told a group of Chinese-Americans after the meeting had concluded. “Passing this bill will erode the citizenship, privilege and rights that we have here in America and in Howard County,” he said. “Let people come in and obtain their citizenship like everybody else did.”
The Chinese-American Parent Association, Jean Xu, said the immigrant community is confused and struggling to understand the implications of the bill.
Councilman Greg Fox, Republican, opposes the measure. He says it undermines the immigrants’ hard work and dedication applied to their effort to obtain citizenship legally. “Even if it doesn’t change how we operate, it makes Howard County a beacon for illegal immigrants. That beacon is a problem,” Fox said.
There are already about 300 cities and jurisdictions in Howard County that are considered Sanctuary Cities, but there still lacks legal definition about the implication of the designation of the local law enforcement’s normal activities.
On Thursday, January 5, 2017, County Executive Allan Kittleman, Republican, said that he would veto the proposal put forth by Council members Jen Terrasa and Calvin Ball. Kittleman called the proposal a “hollow political statement” that compromises the safety of the community, along with federal funding for critical services and programs.
The Council is scheduled vote on the measure on February 6, 2017. Four votes in favor of the bill will be required to override a veto, which is one more than what the bill needs to pass. The Sanctuary bill does not protect the undocumented from being deported back to their country.
The shooting death of Kathryn Steinle in San Francisco, by an undocumented immigrant, who had been deported five times, has gained nationwide attention. The event occurred in July, after the local law enforcement released the suspect from jail, even though the Department of Homeland Security had previously put in a request to deport him.