Howard County passes immigrant safety bill; exec promises veto

Howard County Council members passed a bill assuring safety for the county's vulnerable groups in the face of the Trump threat, but the Republican county executive, with a history of discriminatory moves, promises a veto.

/PM BlogSpace Report/ The Howard County Council voted Monday night to codify practices to make immigrants and other vulnerable populations and groups feel safer in the face of assaults from the federal government and Trump administration. County Executive Allan Kittleman, a Republican, quickly said he would veto the bill.

At a news conference the day after the Monday evening vote, Kittleman argued (with law enforcement leaders who serve at his pleasure arranged around him) that “police and community resource employees have the most interaction with residents and had not experienced issues related to immigration,” according to the Sun’s account.

“He also said he's heard no reports of anyone in Howard being harassed by county police or county employees over their immigration status,” The Sun continued.

Proponents of the bill wanted to solidify existing practices in a measure that was originally called a “sanctuary bill… a legally vague but politically incendiary term” as the WaPo put it. Fears that would attract the threatened federal defunding of local government led the sponsors to remove the word from the bill.

Other Maryland jurisdictions like Baltimore City and Montgomery County have explicit arms-length policies with federal agencies. “Maryland has cooperated with federal policies on detaining undocumented immigrants since 2015, when Gov. Larry Hogan (R) reversed the noncompliance policy of his Democratic predecessor, Martin O’Malley,” the WaPo said.

There is reason, supporters of the bill said, to restrain the County Executive’s power in these matters because of his past actions.

Our allies at CASA, in advance of Monday’s vote, had said this about the bill and the dubious record of the Republican County Executive:

“CASA emphatically urges Howard County Council to stand up for the values of inclusion and opportunity and pass a bill barring discrimination against immigrants, considering County Executive Allan Kittleman’s long history of sponsoring failed anti-immigrant legislation at the state level.


“It is critical, in this current political climate, that Howard County codify its longstanding practice of not discriminating against undocumented immigrants simply because of their legal status.

“The legislation introduced by council members Calvin Ball and Jen Terrasa,
would codify existing county practices that prohibit local law enforcement agencies from gathering information about citizenship status and explain when to cooperate with federal law enforcement.

“A statement or resolution describing a vague policy does not carry the protection of law and cannot be relied upon given Kittleman’s troubling past record on immigration issues.

“Kittleman, who served in the Maryland Senate for 10 years from 2004 to 2014, has repeatedly taken positions that are counter to Howard County’s longstanding practices of welcoming immigrants and which go against the values of this community. He simply cannot be trusted on issues of immigration.

  • Kittleman/Trump: In 2008, then Senator Kittleman was the primary sponsor of legislation that would cut off state funding for counties and municipalities that bar local police from providing information for the purposes of civil immigration enforcement. Not only does this mean that Kittleman took active and negative leadership on the very issue being debated in Howard County now, it also clearly aligns him with the very first acts of President Trump. Like Kittleman, Trump committed to cutting off federal funds from localities that establish so-called “sanctuary city” policies and indeed one of his first Executive Orders attempts to do just that, a move that many legal scholars have argued violates the 10th Amendment of the US Constitution.
  • In 2009, Kittleman co-sponsored a statewide bill that would prohibit the Motor Vehicle Administration from issuing a new driver’s license to individuals who could not provide specified documentation certifying they were in the country legally. The bill died without a vote.
  • In 2011, Allan Kittleman voted against the Maryland DREAM Act, which allows Maryland immigrant students to attend community college and university at in-state rates if they satisfy rigorous conditions including multiple years of income tax filings to the state. Among the numerous weakening and unsuccessful amendments that Kittleman supported, he sought to restrict access to students who had filed an application for permanent residency, a move that would have made the law meaningless to the vast majority of students. The measure was petitioned to referendum in 2012, where Howard County residents voted in favor of immigrant students by a wide majority, rejecting the position of then Senator Allan Kittleman.
  • As Senator, Kittleman took special leadership in advancing changes to the workers’ compensation system that would make undocumented immigrants ineligible for workers’ compensation insurance benefits when they are injured on the job. While those proposals were luckily unsuccessful, they would have, if approved, given a free pass to employers who almost always knowingly hire undocumented immigrants and expose them to on-the-job risks sufficiently severe that such workers have the highest employment-related injury rates in the country.
  • As recently as 2013, Kittleman voted against the Maryland Highway Safety Act (SB715) which allowed immigrants who had paid income taxes to the state to drive legally, with road training and insurance coverage.

“During these contentious times and with [the executive’s] track record of targeting undocumented people during his tenure as a state legislator, it is imperative that Howard County courageously stand up for the values that are central to the county and the state: embracing immigrants and their contributions,” CASA concluded.

Council proponents, who won by a 3-2 vote, are seeking a fourth vote to override Kittleman’s threatened veto.