Remains of immigration 'Trust Act' falter in General Assembly

Maryland lawmakers appear unlikely to pass any legislation to outlaw aggressive immigration enforcement as the final day of the General Assembly session draws to a close.

Lawmakers representing Democratic, immigrant-rich communities had hoped to pass a bill they called the "Trust Act," which would have broadly prohibited the use of local or state government resources to help with immigration enforcement.

The House of Delegates passed a watered-down version of the bill, but the state Senate struggled to advance an even narrower bill that mainly clarified that local police can't ask about a person's immigration status if they're not under arrest.

That failure drew a strong rebuke from minority lawmakers, who alleged the leaders in the Senate didn't care about the needs of the state's immigrant community.

Del. Joseline Pena-Melnyk singled out Baltimore County Sen. Bobby Zirkin, who chairs the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee that considered the bill.

"Sen. Bobby Zirkin, shame on you!" Pena-Melnyk said during an afternoon press conference. "You are a DINO: Democrat in name only."

The Prince George's County Democrat continued: "I hope your district takes you out."

In an interview, Zirkin defended his committee's work on the bill that he put forward. The bill would have codified a Supreme Court ruling that prevents local police from asking about immigration status, and required written policies and training for officers.

"You do the best you can with the policy and the politics takes care of itself," Zirkin said.

The stripped-down, police-only bill failed to gain traction in the Senate, where some of the more liberal senators questioned if the bill did enough.

Zirkin responded that senators should consider the bill, even if it "may not be everything your heart desires."

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller didn't seem interested in advancing the bill forward.

"Special order it until Monday, for all I care," he said, using the legislative terminology for a delay — and specifically a delay past the end of this year's legislative session.

While the bill wasn't officially killed, Miller's comments and the lack of enthusiasm among even Democrats signal that passage is not likely before the legislature adjourns at midnight.

Gov. Larry Hogan said he was glad to see the bill flounder on the final day. "I think that's probably a good idea," he said of the bill not going forward. "I said I was going to veto it and the Senate president agreed with me."

Lawmakers and advocacy groups called a press conference to vow to keep fighting on the issue.

Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez, a Montgomery County Democrat, said the united front of the state's Latino, Asian and black caucuses in favor of the Trust Act was "historic."

"We are Maryland and we deserve to be treated with respect and justice," she said.

pwood@baltsun.com

twitter.com/pwoodreporter

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