On the eve of a public hearing on the Maryland Trust Act — which would limit local governments' ability to assist with immigration enforcement — hundreds of activists marched in Annapolis to draw attention to the bill.
Chanting in Spanish as police officers stopped traffic, they carried signs with slogans such as "Help stop ICE scare tactics" and "MD Trust Act: Protecting Immigrant and Muslim Communities."
The group from Baltimore City and Baltimore County was so large that they all could not fit in the Joint Hearing Room, the largest hearing room in Annapolis.
Those who did make it inside were heartened to hear that many of their representatives are co-sponsors of the Maryland Trust Act. The crowd cheered at sometimes-awkward attempts by the lawmakers to speak in Spanish.
Del. Shelly Hettleman, a Baltimore County Democrat, told the crowd about her grandparents fleeing Nazi Germany and learning about what it's like to fear for your safety in your home. Del. Robbyn Lewis, a Baltimore Democrat, talked about an ancestor who fled to Canada to escape slavery, but whose children returned to America following the Civil War.
Del. Cheryl Glenn, chairwoman of the Legislative Black Caucus, said her group "came on board early" along with the Latino and Asian caucuses.
"We are not going to allow President Trump to intimidate and scare those of you in the state of Maryland," said Glenn, a Baltimore Democrat. "We are all immigrants."
President Donald Trump recently expanded the number of immigrants in the country illegally who could be targeted for deportation.
The Maryland Trust Act will have a public hearing in the House of Delegates Judiciary Committee on Tuesday afternoon. The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee held a public hearing last week.
In addition to the Maryland Trust Act, advocates also pressed for increasing the minimum wage to $15, making it easier for undocumented students to qualify for in-state college tuition rates under the Dream Act and allowing undocumented immigrants to buy health insurance on the state exchange.
The lobbying night was organized by CASA, the immigrant advocacy group; National Nurses United; Maryland Rising, which grew out of the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign; and Unite Here Local 7, a union that represents casino and hospitality workers.