Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.
After the tireless work and advocacy of student activists and groups such as Political Latinxs United for Movement and Action in Society, the University of Maryland has announced its current contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is no longer active and will not be renewed.
Although the contract did not deal with enforcement, it legitimized a rogue agency responsible for the separation of countless families and unjust deportations across the country. This contract’s ending was a significant victory for immigrant students and families connected to this university — and as an alumna, a great moment of pride.
Unfortunately, several state and local agencies still have partnerships with ICE that have put the lives and livelihoods of immigrant families at risk. Programs such as 287(g) allow the agency to enter into contracts with law enforcement to enable police officers to act as federal immigration agents. Three Maryland counties have 287(g) programs, established out of fear and paranoia stemming from the racist rhetoric following 9/11, with a track record of racial profiling and abusive practices.
Other local governments enter into intergovernmental service agreements, which are contracts that provide localities with funding to allow local jails and prisons to detain immigrants on behalf of ICE. Although Howard County recently ended its contract with the agency, there are still two other counties that we know of that have these contracts and are actively profiting off of the incarceration of immigrants. Contracts like these have led to the unfair targeting, detainment and deportation of many of our friends and neighbors right here in Prince George’s County.
The state of Maryland has an opportunity to end these contracts and partnerships with the agency by passing the Dignity Not Detention Act and the Trust Act. The Maryland General Assembly has been meeting since January, and state lawmakers are now in the final days of the session. The Dignity Not Detention Act passed in the House of Delegates, thanks to the incredible work of advocates and immigrants across the state. But with just days left in the legislative session, the bill has yet to move in the Senate. CASA and countless other organizations are fighting to combine the two bills and get them passed before it’s too late.
The victory at this university illustrates the power of student organizing and how much of a difference a small group of people can make. Now, we need students’ rapid response to support us by fighting to pass these critical policies.
Second, call and email Senate President Bill Ferguson to tell him how proud you are that this university ended its ICE contract and that you want the state of Maryland to follow suit. Demand that Ferguson use his power to pass House Bill 16.
The clock to pass these bills runs out at 11:59 p.m. on April 12. We still have an opportunity to pass meaningful immigration reform on the state level — and take another significant step toward protecting immigrant families of this university’s students.
Maryland legislators have a responsibility to act. We need all hands on deck, including student activists, to make the final push to ensure that it happens.
Cathryn Paul is the research and policy analyst at CASA, the largest immigrant advocacy organization in the Mid-Atlantic region. She is also a University of Maryland alumna.