Maryland’s counties and cities shouldn’t cooperate with ICE

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.

By all accounts, the Trump administration has displayed an attitude toward immigrants that can be called unfriendly at best and violently racist, hateful and inhumane at worst. And yet many municipalities throughout Maryland have been hesitant to stop cooperating with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and by extension, the administration’s immigration agenda. Local Maryland leaders should not go down the same path as national politicians — they should immediately halt any present or future collaboration with ICE.

A recent New York Times report shed light on some truly sinister attitudes from the architects of this immigration agenda. This is just the latest development in a narrative that we already know: the Trump administration’s policies and attitudes are unequivocally xenophobic. In 2018, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions reportedly told several U.S. attorneys that “we need to take away children” from their families. This cruel, unflinching rhetoric reflects the exact intent and cause of the administration’s actions — to dehumanize and destroy the lives of migrants. While the draconian family separation policy officially ended in 2018 after international outcry, hundreds more have since been quietly separated. 

The mastermind of Trump’s immigration agenda, Stephen Miller, is well-known for his racist and xenophobic views. During the height of the administration’s zero-tolerance policy, an outside White House adviser told Vanity Fair that, “Stephen actually enjoys seeing those pictures at the border. He’s a twisted guy.” Miller has close ties to the Center for Immigration Studies, an anti-immigrant think tank founded by a white nationalist eugenicist. Cooperating with ICE leaves migrants at the whim of a man who is objectively racist.

Aside from the abhorrent personal views of the creators and enforcers of these policies, the detention and deportation process itself is incredibly sadistic. The U.S. government is currently operating overcrowded, unsanitary detention camps on our southern border. Dawn Wooten, a whistleblower from the Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia, reported that ICDC and the Irwin County hospital forced an alarming number of immigrant women to receive invasive, potentially unnecessary gynecological procedures without their full knowledge or consent. These human rights abuses aren’t due to a lack of administrative oversight or a few bad apples — this is exactly what the Trump administration wants.

And while Maryland is perceived by many as a bastion of liberal attitudes and tolerance, local officials are much more in lock-step with the administration’s immigration policies than they would have you believe. For example, the Howard County Council passed legislation on Monday to end the county’s long-standing contract with ICE, which allowed ICE to house detainees in the county’s jail. Yet County Executive Calvin Ball almost immediately announced his intention to veto the bill. Ball, who in September implemented a policy to only allow ICE to house convicted violent offenders in Howard County facilities, said this framework would serve as a “practical long-term solution.” 

Ball’s approach is a tacit endorsement of the Trump administration’s immigration policies. Sure, it sounds reasonable for people convicted of violent crimes to be deported, but haven’t these individuals already gone through our justice system? If somebody is tried, convicted and serves their time, do they not deserve another chance at life in this country? Many people are conditioned to believe otherwise, but migrants have the exact same capacity for change and growth as anybody else. Ball’s veto signals that he either rejects the premise of restorative justice or that he simply doesn’t concern himself with those that society deems undesirable.

Looking beyond Ball and Howard County, the only places in Maryland with “sanctuary” laws on the books are Baltimore City, Prince George’s County and Takoma Park. Even with these local laws in place, undocumented migrants still face the risk of deportation. As my colleague Laura Phillips-Alvarez wrote in a recent column, “Despite the fact that [Prince George’s] county previously said it would not cooperate with immigration agents on noncriminal issues, three undocumented migrants were placed into deportation proceedings in 2019 after contact with local police.” Even when official policy is non-cooperation with federal immigration agents, local authorities have occasionally betrayed their promises to undocumented communities.

Local governments throughout Maryland should stop cooperating with the agency in any capacity — it is simply the right thing to do. ICE is a corrupt, depraved, disgusting stain on our society that should be roundly condemned by anybody that believes in human rights. No person, no matter what they’ve done, is “illegal” — particularly in a country built on stolen land.

Josh Binderman is a senior government and politics major. He can be reached at jmbinderman@gmail.com.

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