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Baltimore County Council effectively kills bill to require immigration screening in jail

The Baltimore County Council has effectively killed a bill that would have required the county jail to screen inmates for immigration violations, but the measure's chief sponsor vowed to try again.

The council voted 5-2 on Monday to table the measure, which would have required the county jail in Towson to join a federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement program known as 287(g) that trains and deputizes county correctional officers to carry out certain immigration enforcement. The bill would have placed the program among official duties of the county's Department of Corrections.

The council action kills the bill, because county bills expire after 45 days, and the council will not meet again before this bill expires.

Republican Councilman David Marks — who had been a co-sponsor of the measure — joined the council's four Democrats in voting to table the bill.

Marks said he grew to have some reservations about the bill. He drafted amendments that would have made participation in the program a pilot for a limited amount of time, limited it to only screening convicted felons and required an audit.

"I think the bill could be improved," said Marks, a Perry Hall Republican.

Councilman Todd Crandell, the bill's chief sponsor, said he plans to reintroduce a version of the bill after spending the summer further educating council members about it.

"Absolutely, we're going to bring it back," the Dundalk Republican said. "It's just in what form."

Crandell and Councilman Wade Kach, a Cockeysville Republican, voted against the motion to table the bill.

County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, who had promised to veto the bill if it had passed, issued a statement welcoming the move to table it.

"The Republican council bill was more about bringing [President] Donald Trump's divisive politics to our county than doing what is best for our residents. I'm glad the council didn't move forward with this legislation," said Kamenetz, a Democrat who is considering running for governor next year.

The bill drew an unusually intense amount of interest to the Baltimore County Council, with dozens of people on both sides testifying during a public hearing last week. Groups both opposed and supportive of the bill launched petition drives.

Towson resident Tony Ristaino, who supported the bill, told council members during the meeting he was disappointed they didn't vote on the bill.

"I would have liked to have seen a vote on the bill so your constituents could make a decision as to whether you made the right vote or not," he said.

pwood@baltsun.com

twitter.com/pwoodreporter

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