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Resisting Trump’s Deportation Machine: The Immigrant Sanctuary Movement and the Maryland Trust Act

Katherine Culliton-González

Every day since the beginning of the Trump administration, immigrant communities have been living in fear—yet you can be sure that communities are fighting back against the far-reaching, multi-headed, xenophobic and draconian first wave of Trump’s immigration enforcement apparatus. Everyone who believes in equality and justice can assist in this community-led battle for the soul of our democracy. Today, I have the privilege of joining CASA and other Maryland immigrant community leaders to provide expert testimony regarding the Maryland Law Enforcement and Governmental Trust Act  (S. 544 -14, H.B. 1362). Sponsored by Senator Victor Ramírez (D-47) and Delegate Marice Morales (D-19), along with dozens of other state legislators, the Trust Act would protect Maryland’s 911,582 foreign-born residents, who comprise over 15% of the state’s population, and protect the safety, educational opportunities and well-being of their families and our communities.

The Act’s signature provisions prohibit the use state and local law enforcement and other resources to support unjust federal immigration enforcement. They would protect community safety by prohibiting stopping, arresting, searching or detaining anyone based on suspicion of civil immigration law violations. The Trust Act would also shield Maryland residents’ immigration status information from the federal government, and require development of similar policies for state and local schools, hospitals and courthouses. Significantly, it would protect against discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, national or ethnic origin, gender identity, or disability, and it is the first legislative proposal backed by all caucuses of color in Maryland.

Here’s what we are up against:

But as my testimony documents, the law is on our side. Being undocumented is a civil, and not a criminal violation, akin to failure to pay taxes. Therefore, as summarized in our January 13 report with LatinoJustice PRLDEF, Sanctuary, Safety & Community – Tools for Welcoming Immigrants Through Local Democracy, without a probable cause of a criminal violation, there isn’t sufficient due process for local law enforcement to detain or arrest all undocumented immigrants. Case after case has shown that local police acting on orders or requests from ICE lack sufficient probable cause, and therefore they may be held liable for violating the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. There is also a high risk of unconstitutional racial profiling. Moreover, considering the rights of states and local jurisdictions to enact their own policies under the Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the Trump administration cannot legally retract any funding that is not expressly tied to federal immigration enforcement—and most federal funding is not.

That’s why Maryland has the constitutional authority to pass the Trust Act and join a growing number of jurisdictions, including 5 states, 39 cities and 633 counties that refuse, in one way or another, to cooperate with federal requests for detention or removal of their residents. The Maryland Trust Act will not be able to stop all of the unconstitutional actions of the Trump administration’s deportation forces, but it will ensure that members of our communities will not needlessly fear police, schools and other local institutions. Since the election of President Trump, Maryland public school children have been subject to hate speech, and many fear their parents could be deported. A local Spanish-language church sign was debased with the words “Trump Nation – White America.” This climate of fear and racism is not good enough for my children here in Maryland, or yours or anyone else’s. There is absolutely no reason to treat this generation of immigrants so much worse than prior generations of majority-European immigrants. To protect our communities’ rights to an inclusive democracy, every state should pass comprehensive sanctuary policies like those of the Maryland Trust Act.