HB 817 — State and Local Correctional Facilities - Undocumented Immigrants - Transfer to United States Department of Homeland Security (Keep Our Communities Safe Act of 2019)

Committee: House Judiciary

Position: OPPOSE


The Maryland Catholic Conference (“Conference”) represents the public policy interests of the three Roman Catholic (arch)dioceses serving Maryland: the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Archdiocese of Washington, and the Diocese of Wilmington.

House Bill 817 would require a correctional facility in the state to transfer an undocumented immigrant in their custody to the federal Department of Homeland Security, if requested.

The Conference has historically held a strong interest in immigration and how public policy affects immigrants seeking a new life in the United States, and as such supports comprehensive immigration reform. However, in the absence of such reform, there must be greater clarity in the roles of local, state, and federal law enforcement in immigration enforcement and detainment.

Unfortunately, when local and state law enforcement are requested to take part in programs that engage local and state police in immigration enforcement, it causes an erosion of their critical relationship with immigrant communities. When immigrant communities do not feel comfortable interacting with police, even to report crimes, then whole communities are less safe as crimes go unreported and/or unsolved. Furthermore, the rate of deportation for non- and low-level criminal defenders creates another disincentive for immigrants to reach out and contact local and state law enforcement when matters of public safety occur.

House Bill 817 disrupts the balance that is needed for both public safety and immigration enforcement in order to make families and communities safer. It would completely destroy the necessary trust between law enforcement and immigrants throughout Maryland.

The Conference appreciates your consideration and, for these reasons, respectfully requests an unfavorable report on House Bill 817.