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Mayor Young Signs Order To Protect Immigrants, Renews Legal Funding For Potential Deportees

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Baltimore Mayor Jack Young signed an executive order directing city agencies to protect immigrants, he announced Wednesday.

It also approves funding for lawyers to represent residents facing deportation. It's the first in seven years to explicitly outline how the city will not work with federal immigration enforcement agents.

"As a Welcoming City, we firmly believe in respecting the rights and dignity of New Americans. As such, we would like to ensure that the newest members of our community are extended the same rights and protections the rest of our residents and visitors enjoy," said Mayor Bernard C. "Jack" Young. "This Executive Order clarifies existing anti-discrimination policies and local law enforcement practices in Baltimore and makes clear that discrimination of any kind will not be tolerated."

The order is designed to encourage immigrants who are victims of or witnesses to crimes to feel comfortable dealing with police.

"It outlines, it specifies what the city will not do," said Dana Moore, deputy city solicitor.

It prevents Baltimore City from assisting in immigration enforcement or intimidate a resident based on their status.

"Making sure that there is no wiggle room for any city agency, for any dollar of city tax money to be used in collaboration with ICE," said Elizabeth Alex, CASA senior director.

A similar order was signed in 2012, but immigration officials said a lot has changed since then, with federal immigration agents and who they target.

"And particularly, in widening and broadening the number and the scope of the people they were targeting," Alex said.

Maryland has about a million residents born in another country, many of whom live in Baltimore.

It's signed after immigrant communities have faced issues in recent weeks of federal raids promised by President Trump. He has continued to call undocumented immigration "a terrible thing" and vowed to increase raids- which some in Baltimore say caused fear.

"And, just to think that I will not see my children fills me with frustration and fear," said Diana Chavez, in Spanish.

The executive order strengthens discrimination policy too.

"So, when an employer asks an individual their immigration status-- which they shouldn't do-- that resident can actually file a complaint based on discrimination with the Office of Civil Rights," said Catalina Rodriguez Lima, director of immigration affairs.

Last month, Baltimore's police commissioner Michael Harrison announced a policy with similar goals, prohibiting city officers from telling immigration agents where people they are looking for are.

Harrison said he fully supports Mayor Young's executive order.

"Public safety demands that all members of the community trust law enforcement officers and feel comfortable and safe when they report crimes," Harrison said.

CASA responded saying that the mayor has once again stepped up "to ensure that immigrants are welcome in our city," said Gustavo Torres, the executive director of CASA.

He added that he hoped other local and state elected officials in Maryland will follow the mayor's lead.

Mayor Young also announced renewed funding for Safe City Baltimore, to continue providing legal representation to potential deportees.

"At a time when harsh immigration policies are disrupting our community, separating children and parents, and increasing detention and deportation, Baltimore City is proud to reaffirm its commitment to keeping families together by continuing to provide legal representation to community members facing deportation hearings," Young said.

He added that immigrants who call Baltimore their home should not have to live in fear of family separation or deportation.

The SAFE (Safety and Fairness for Everyone) Network, managed by the Vera Institute of Justice, is part of a national network of cities and counties that work to provide publicly-funded representation for immigrants facing deportation.

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