Baltimore County vote on jail immigration screening set for Monday night

The Baltimore County Council is scheduled to vote Monday on whether to require the county jail in Towson to join a federal immigration screening program.

The bill, co-sponsored by the council's three Republican members, is likely to fail, as all four Democrats on the seven-member council have publicly raised concerns with the bill. If it did pass, County Executive Kevin Kamenetz has promised to veto it -- and five votes would be needed to override that veto.

Despite the bill's low chance of success, it has inspired intense discussion in the county. Dozens of residents testified on both sides of the issue at a hearing last week, and groups of supporters and opponents both offered petitions with hundreds of signatures to make their case.

The bill would require the county jail to join a federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement program known as 287(g). In the program, correctional officers are trained by the federal government and authorized to carry out certain immigration enforcement actions.

Law enforcement officials in Frederick and Harford counties already participate in the program and Anne Arundel County has applied to join.

Under the program, people who are booked into the detention centers are asked about their citizenship and place of birth. The answers to those questions can trigger a further investigation of an individual's immigration status.

Supporters say the program is a good way for local governments to help enforce immigration law, while opponents say local governments should stay out of the thorny federal issue.

The council will meet at 6 p.m. Monday at the Historic Courthouse, 400 Washington Ave. in Towson.

pwood@baltsun.com

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