Howard County lawmakers introduce bill seeking sanctuary status

ELLICOTT CITY, Md. (WBFF) -- Howard County lawmakers are introducing new legislation that would make the county a sanctuary county for immigrants. Sponsors of the bill say it is in direct response to comments made by president elect Donald Trump.

One council member says this is the most public feedback they have heard about the proposed new law in the last decade.

Several people came to Tuesday night's council meeting as the legislation had its first reading even though the public was not allowed to address the council.

The bill would designate Howard county as a "Sanctuary County.”

Terms laid out in the legislation would prohibit county employees and police from questioning a person's immigration status, enforcing federal immigration laws and assisting federal immigration agents.

Councilman Calvin Ball who cosponsors the legislation says it's a way to make sure immigration status is not used to target people.

"Basically right now immigration is something that is under the purview of the federal government. This will formalize that relationship and pretty much say legally, local Howard County people who are in law-enforcement and work for Howard County are going to work on enforcing Howard county laws and not work on enforcing federal laws as it relates to immigration status. So if someone is not committing a crime, and all they are is an undocumented immigrant, that is not a cause for Howard County to go and try to attack them or what have you," Councilman Ball says.

Those opposed to it say that's not happening in the county currently and the legislation is not needed.

“They don't want the label of sanctuary city to become a beacon for additional illegal immigrants that put additional taxes on our resources that are already limited,” says councilman Greg Fox who's opposed to the bill.

“There are some things it also takes away from like the police department dealing with gangs and some of the tools they may utilize there. Those could disappear as a result of this. There are a lot of potential implications and I don't think this has really been thought out well.”

A public comment hearing is in two weeks on January 17.

The earliest the council could vote on this is the beginning of February.

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