On Tuesday, hundreds of Howard County residents joined a debate on whether their county should join others in our area in becoming a so-called “sanctuary county.”
Howard County lawmakers said Donald Trump’s impending presidency made them decide to try to protect illegal immigrants in their community.
The opportunity to comment on the bill drew hundreds of people to Ellicott City for the opportunity to comment on what role the county should have in immigration issues, if any.
If Howard County’s five person council votes to become a “sanctuary county,” they’ll effectively bar any county employee from asking about a person’s immigration status or discriminating based on it. Even local law enforcement.
"First the concern is the potential impact on public safety and our relationship with ICE and other federal partners," said Howard County Police Chief Gary Gardner.
Gardner spoke against the bill out of concern for losing federal partners and grants under the Trump administration. He said his officers don’t ask about immigration status even now.
“The Howard County Police department has a long tradition of treating people with respect and dignity," said Gardner.
Opponents of the bill organized on Facebook kept track of the votes for and against the bill that came in Tuesday night's meeting. They wore red in solidarity, and filled most of the room.
The bill’s supporters made one point abundantly clear – they would not have pursued this law under a different president.
“While over 70 percent of Howard County residents voted for someone other than Donald Trump, we know he will be our president. While Donald Trump has maligned immigrants, promised to build a wall, pledged to register and deport all Muslims, then says ‘they’re just words.’ We know that words matter. And while some dismiss the concerns of our immigrant communities we know that the anxiety and fear is real," said Howard County Resident Byron MacFarlane.
The debate continued on late into the night and nothing will not be settled Tuesday night. The vote on this bill won’t come until early February.