Anne Arundel County detention officers have screened 180 inmates through the 287(g) partnership with the federal government, resulting in 64 federal detainment requests against immigrants charged with crimes ranging from murder to driving without a license.
Thirty-six of those detained were charged with violent crimes that included murder, attempted murder, assault and other acts, records obtained by The Capital show. The rest were charged with driving without a license, credit card fraud, drunken driving or other non-violent crimes. Other inmates were protected from ICE detainers for a variety of reasons including being a lawful permanent resident or being a foreign-born U.S. resident.
These numbers embolden advocates who believe the plan is good for immigration policy and helps identify violent offenders in the country. Opponents to the program say it proves 287(g) unfairly harms immigrants picked up on non-violent offenses and doesn’t change the treatment of violent offenders who are still flagged in districts that don’t have 287(g) agreements.
County Executive Steuart Pittman has pledged to end the program started by his predecessor, Steve Schuh. Pittman’s administration is reviewing the program before ending it, but declined to comment on the results of the first year under the program.
“First, immigration-related enforcement is a federal issue and should not be placed on the shoulders of local law enforcement and the taxpayer,” said Alderman Marc Rodriguez, D-Ward 5 and immigration advocate. “Communities are well aware of this program. People think law enforcement care about status.”
Anne Arundel County implemented the program in 2017 to help federal immigration authorities track down immigrants committing violent crimes. The county’s agreement is for jail enforcement, meaning detention officers are trained in immigration enforcement before they screen inmates.
This is a more proactive approach compared to having the federal government review shared databases. Once potential immigration violations are found, U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement agents can lodge a detainer, a legal document that requests a local government hold an inmate for an additional 48 hours after release from custody on local charges. During that time federal authorities then decide whether to pick up the individual.
The Anne Arundel County Department of Detention Facilities did not include names of offenders in documents released to The Capital, citing privacy concerns, though it did include numbers identifying individual inmates.
Terry Kokolis, superintendent of detention facilities, did not return a request for comment.
Some of the inmates are still in county custody. One man charged with driving without a license was also charged of leaving the scene of an accident that caused an injury. His attorney did not return a request for comment.
In addition to Anne Arundel County, the Frederick and Harford county sheriff's offices also have 287(g) agreements with ICE. There are 78 agreements total across 20 states. All of the agreements under the 287(g) program are titled “jail enforcement.”
The agreement does not give Anne Arundel police officers immigration enforcement duties. The Sheriff’s Office provides security at the county courthouse in Annapolis and warrants service for the judiciary system.
The county also has partnered with ICE to house up to 130 alleged immigration violators at the Ordnance Road Correctional Center in Glen Burnie. The contract promises a minimum of $1.7 million a year in revenue.
Both of these contracts angered immigration advocates who argue the county was joining forces with the federal government to increase deportation and limit immigration. President Donald Trump’s administration has taken a hard line against immigration, rolling back Barack Obama-era polices protecting immigrant families. One of Trump’s most controversial policies split parents and children at the border.
More aggressive immigration policies coupled with the county’s 287(g) policy have created fear inside immigrant communities, both people with permanent status and undocumented families, said Suzanne Martin, president of the Annapolis Immigration Justice Network.
“What I’m seeing are families afraid to call the police now,” Martin said. “I’ve met grown men who have cried talking about how they are afraid to drive down the road because they are afraid ICE will pick them up. I don’t see how this is making us safer.”
When then-County Executive Schuh joined the program, he opted for jail enforcement as in other states. He said that decision meant immigrants could still work with local law enforcement without fear of deportation. But criminals within the county detention system would be screened.
During the fall election campaign, Schuh defended the program as the county’s best option to find and remove violent offenders. Since the program was jail enforcement only, the Republican argued it only affected criminals and it was the “only” way to remove violent offenders.
That wasn’t completely true as the federal government has worked with local authorities before the creation of 287(g).
That didn’t silence critics, who accused the county of snitching on immigrants who committed minor crimes.
What comes next
Pittman, who defeated Schuh in November, used the county’s participation in the 287(g) program as a political club.
In his inauguration speech, Pittman committed to ending the program after a review. Pittman’s administration has not revealed a timetable for the review or for ending the program.
The Democrat said he had seen the same information released to The Capital. It proves that immigrants who didn’t commit major offenses are paying for harsher crimes as they traditionally wouldn’t have been referred to ICE, Pittman said.
“Those dangerous criminals went to ICE after they served their time,” Pittman said. “There has always been a system to flag those people. I continue to believe that immigration system and the criminal justice system should be kept separate and the federal government should handle immigration and we should handle local crime issues.”
ICE or the county executive can end the 287(g) agreement whenever they wish. The current agreement memo will last through June 30.
Pittman should reveal the report on 287(g) to the County Council before ending the program so people know the results of its use, said Councilwoman Jessica Haire, R-Edgewater.
“It is important to know whether it is accomplishing the goal,” Haire said. “Killing it before you have that information is not rational.”
Other local governments have opted to end their jail enforcement programs, prompting a rebuke from ICE. When Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, Sheriff Garry McFadden ended the program, an ICE official said it was an “open invitation” for immigrants to commit crimes, reported The Charlotte Observer.
“Residents should expect a more visible ICE presence in Charlotte, as ICE will now have no choice but to conduct more at-large arrests in local neighborhoods and at worksites,” the ICE officials told The Charlotte Observer.
ICE did not immediately return a request for comment.