BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Montgomery County is just one of many Maryland counties deemed safe havens for illegal immigrants.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions is pleading with the state not to go through with a "Sanctuary State" bill making its way through the general assembly. The attorney general thrust Maryland into the national spotlight over a bill that would protect those living in Maryland without legal status.
The Trump administration is focusing on Maryland in the battle over immigration.
"Maryland is talking about a state law to make the state a sanctuary state. The governor is opposed to that, I'm glad to hear. That would be such a mistake. I would plead with the people of Maryland," says Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Attorney General Sessions threatened to withhold millions in federal grants if it passes. His words drew praise from the president.
"That was a big day you had yesterday on sanctuary cities. That was a very, very important thing you did," says President Trump.
Backers of the legislation, called the Maryland Trust Act, say it's designed to make immigrants without legal status feel comfortable reporting crimes to police without fear of arrest, which some say is a growing problem nationwide.
They may refuse to give testimony as a witness, refuse to show up in court, and that affects the entire system.
The regional director of Maryland immigrant rights group CASA, Elizabeth Alex, says the state won't be bullied.
"Folks are beginning to parse out what is smoke, hot air and rhetoric and what are actual facts," she says.
Governor Hogan came out strongly against the sanctuary bill and tells WJZ it would prevent police from holding someone on an outstanding federal immigration warrant.
"It's a terrible piece of legislation, number one, it makes us less safe. And as the Attorney General said yesterday, it could cost Maryland a lot of money in federal funding because they're not going to fund sanctuary states," says Governor Larry Hogan.
"We're going to kill the legislation hopefully in the senate, and if not, we're going to veto the bill," he says.
Now, the Trump Administration is making it very publicly known, their eyes are on Maryland.
"This makes the state of Maryland more at risk for violence and crime," says Atty. Gen. Sessions.
"And now, the cards are on the table, and elected officials are going to have to decide 'Do I value the constitution and our democracy, more than I'm scared of the federal government right now?'
The Maryland Trust Act was passed in the House, but the governor says he hopes it dies in the Senate, and he plans to veto it.
Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz called the Attorney General's threat to withhold federal funds 'unconstitutional.'
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