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Md. Communities Face Controversial Question Of Sanctuary Status

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- A tale of two Marylands, divided on immigration.

Right now, several communities are facing a controversial question: Should they become sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants? The stakes and passions are high.

In Highlandtown, a federal crackdown has created some tension. A federal, open air raid there earlier this year stoked fears, but Baltimore City Police have said they will not ask about immigration status.

And two other jurisdictions, just this week, have taken steps to let undocumented immigrants know they are safe from deportation -- but that's not the case everywhere in Maryland.

Few issues stir up as much controversy in the state as immigration, and whether or not to shield undocumented immigrants from prosecution, even if they have criminal records.

This week, Hyattsville officially became a sanctuary city.

"We can't have a portion of our residents scared to approach our police officers if they're the victims of crime," said Shani Warner, a member of the city council there.

In Baltimore County, Executive Kevin Kamenetz signed an executive order barring detention based on immigration status -- some on the council are fighting that, vowing to work with federal officials in deportations.

"Since Trump became president, there's really a climate of fear out there," Kamenetz says.

Policies vary widely statewide, with Baltimore City and County and parts of Prince George's County seen as sanctuaries. Frederick, Harford and Anne Arundel County are not.

"Anybody can come into this state, commit a serious crime, a violent crime, without any fear of removal," says Frederick County Sheriff Charles Jenkins. "That's a bad thing."

And there have been flash points for controversy in Montgomery and Howard counties.

One, after prosecutors charged undocumented immigrants in a rape at Rockville High School.

And protest erupted over sanctuary legislation in Howard, leading the county executive there, Allan Kittleman, to veto it.

"I have not seen this type of response to legislation in my career," he said.

A statewide sanctuary bill stalled in the General Assembly, drawing sharp criticism from the Trump administration, which threatened to cut federal money.

For now, there's no resolution in sight to bridge Maryland's divisions, which mirror the nation's.

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