BALTIMORE (WJZ)-- Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman vowed to veto a controversial bill the Council approved Monday that would make the county a safe haven for undocumented immigrants. The legislation passed by a slim 3-to-2 majority.
"This is a bad solution to a problem that does not exist," Kittleman said. "There are no known instances, not a single one, in which a member of our community has indicated that they were harassed or mistreated by the police department or county government employees based upon their immigration status.
The bill continues to draw passionate response, as WJZ found in Columbia.
"They're too many in this country. Too many illegal aliens. Too many," William Martin said.
"They helped build this country, so why not give them the opportunity to continue take care and provide for their children in a way that they feel safe," Diana Insala said.
Before passing the bill, the Howard County Council dropped the word "sanctuary." The legislation codifies into law what is already in practice: Police would not be able to ask someone's immigration status and report undocumented immigrants. They would, however, be able to communicate with federal authorities.
"I have not seen this type of legislation in my career," Kittleman said.
Kittleman called the bill "a hollow political statement." He said it's unnecessary and could cost federal dollars. The Trump Administration has threatened to cut some federal funding to sanctuary cities and counties nationwide.
"Responsible leadership calls for due diligence, unfortunately in this case there was none," he said.
Sanctuary jurisdictions in Maryland include Baltimore City, Montgomery County and Prince George's County.
Kittleman's veto means the bill will go back to the Council. They could change it or try to get more support, but their current thin majority is not veto-proof.
The immigration legislation could also end up in a referendum before Howard County voters.
Kittleman released a statement that said, in part:
"If the sponsors had reached out to key stakeholders prior to filing it, they would have learned this was unnecessary legislation. They would have heard from the Police Department, other government agencies, and organizations supporting immigrants that in Howard County, we do not have a problem with this issue. They would have learned why codifying this language creates problems. And they would have understood why no other county in Maryland nor Baltimore City has passed a similar law. I know there is some uncertainty right now on the federal level that has caused concern. But there should be no uncertainty in Howard County. My administration will continue to champion and preserve our values and treat every resident with dignity and respect. My promise, as County Executive, is that Howard County will continue to be a welcoming and inclusive community where we celebrate our diversity."
for more features.