Howard County Council narrowly passes sanctuary county bill

ELLICOTT CITY, Md. (WBFF) - Howard County's controversial sanctuary bill passed Monday tonight.

The council voted 3-2 in favor. The vote came in front of a packed crowd of hundreds supporting and opposing the measure. The bill declares Howard County a safe place for undocumented immigrants and would prohibit county employees, including police, from enforcing federal immigration laws.

"I am very happy and very excited," Cherie McNett said after the council's vote.

Even though the bill passed, the battle over immigration may not be over.

County Executive Allan Kittleman has already pledged to veto the bill.

If that happens, the measure could be back up for a vote as soon as next month, and one council member would need to change his stance in order to override the veto.

"Diversity is great. we are all about diversity and welcoming immigrants. We just have issues with illegal immigrants," said Alex Kirk, a resident who opposed the bill.

Before the vote, hundreds rallied outside and stood in line for more than an hour to get a seat.

Councilmen Greg Fox and Jon Weinstein voted no. Weinstein called the bill symbolic.

"The bill falls short. It will do very little in practical terms to allay the fears of undocumented community," he said.

Councilman Calvin Ball and Councilwoman Jennifer Terrasa, both sponsors of the bill, voted yes along with councilwoman Mary Kay Sigaty.

Supporters are relieved to see the bill move forward, but are still thinking of obstacles that lie ahead with the county executive's promise to veto.

"I implore County Executive Kittleman to rethink his preordained veto and listen to the citizens of this county," McNett said.

"My hope is that hearing from our community, looking at the amendments and seeing the public process, that his heart will be softened and we can work together to ensure that the community - our entire community - feels safer," Ball said.

The county executive has ten days to veto once the bill hits his desk.

If he chooses to do so, the measure would come back before the council at the next meeting in March.

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