Howard County's sanctuary waffle [Editorial]

Howard County Times

After weeks of stirring the boiling pot of debate over immigration policies, the Howard County Council this week neutered legislation that would have declared the county a "sanctuary" for undocumented immigrants.

The council, on a 3-2 vote, approved rules that prohibit police and county workers from enforcing immigration laws or asking people whether they are in the country legally.

In stripping the word "sanctuary" from the bill, the council simply affirmed the views of critics – that the legislation was meaningless, symbolic political-correctness run amok.

Furthermore, taking out a word won't make any difference if President Trump makes good on his pronouncement to withhold federal dollars from jurisdictions that identify as sanctuaries; the intent of the county bill is crystal clear in telling police to look away.

And after the county's police chief expressed opposition, the council again wavered and changed the legislation so local authorities can communicate with the feds on certain matters.

Absent facts of a problem — such as criminals are preying on the undocumented, or that the undocumented are responsible for most of the crimes — the need for the county legislation became muddy, a sophomoric exercise by a handful of local politicians who say they want to be on the "right side of history."

Some of the fearmongering during demonstrations in support of the legislation was far from responsible, stirring up unfounded rumors that squads of police would be raiding homes and work sites, asking for papers and rounding up the undocumented.

To be sure, police across the country have to walk a fine line in some immigrant communities, where mistrust of authorities has been ingrained in cultures where police corruption is rampant. The county's police and prosecutors want victims of crimes or reluctant witnesses to come forward regardless of their immigration status. There are better ways to build trust than legislating it.

The county executive, who has been a voice of reason on immigration policies and building an inclusive community, is planning to veto the legislation, a wise move. There is no argument that immigration reform is necessary but it must be done in Washington for national consistency.

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