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Howard County Considering Becoming "Sanctuary County" To Protect Immigrants

HOWARD COUNTY, Md (WJZ) -- Just weeks before the President-elect is sworn into office, one Maryland county is taking action over fears of possible immigration policy changes under the new administration. Now, some Maryland lawmakers are proposing new legislation to protect undocumented immigrants.

Howard County is considering becoming a "sanctuary county" -- a place where police and county employees wouldn't be able to enforce immigration law or target immigrants. Officials are now saying that's a job that should be left to the federal government.

"We're getting them out of the country" -- one of several campaign promises made by President-elect Trump, a reflection of what at least has been his stance on immigration that continues to be cause for concern for many.

"We have families, we have dreams. We want to make America great too," says one woman.

As the inauguration of Mr. Trump draws near, many local governments, including several in Maryland, are weighing in.

Councilman Calvin Ball is behind a push to make Howard County a "sanctuary county."

"That's not for us to go in, and start trying to deport people, that's for if ICE wants to engage in that and that's a federal purview, then let federal agents go and execute federal law," says Councilman Ball.

There are some exceptions, but Ball tells WJZ, the main reason behind creating the distinction is to ensure people feel safe until official policy changes, if any, take place.

If the bill passes, it would join other sanctuary cities and counties like Baltimore City, Montgomery County, and Prince George's County.

Recently, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz reaffirmed his county's stance against having police assist federal immigration officials, including at the five colleges and universities in the county.

"I don't know what President Trump is going to do, but he certainly ran on a position that he wants to deport people," says Kamenentz says.

But other leaders like Harford County Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler wants to strengthen programs that target undocumented immigrants committing crimes.

"I'm addressing true public safety in a program that does exist, and how here in Harford County we can better address our citizens needs and national security," says Harford County Sherriff Jeffrey Gahler.

The bill will be introduced Tuesday, followed by what's sure to be a lot of discussion. A vote is not expected until next month.

"We really don't know what to expect but we do know that leaders have to lead," says Councilman Ball.

There is some concern these so-called "sanctuary" cities and counties could be at risk of losing federal funding under the new administration.

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