Protesters march during "Lights for Liberty: Vigil for Immigrant Families," outside Baltimore's ICE offices at Hopkins Plaza on Friday.
Protesters march during "Lights for Liberty: Vigil for Immigrant Families," outside Baltimore's ICE offices at Hopkins Plaza on Friday. (Karl Merton Ferron/The Baltimore Sun)

Gov. Larry Hogan was silent leading into Sunday on the expected targeting this weekend of undocumented immigrants across the country and in the Baltimore region by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Michael Ricci, a spokesman for Hogan, said the Republican governor’s office “is monitoring the situation” and “staying in touch with” the Maryland State Police and local officials, but would otherwise not be commenting on the situation as of late Saturday.

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The lack of a concrete position on the controversial plans for arresting and deporting undocumented immigrants in cities across the country beginning on Sunday leaves Hogan politically isolated on an issue that has largely driven leaders into opposing camps.

Trump administration officials have described the planned operations as “targeted enforcement” of immigration laws necessary for national security, while immigration advocates have labeled the efforts as raids and advised immigrants to know their rights – including their right to refuse to open their doors to federal immigration officers unless they have a court-issued warrant.

The looming enforcement has divided the country, and spurred protests, including in Baltimore.

President Donald Trump described the enforcement beginning on Sunday as a “major operation.”

“They’re going to take people out and they’re going to bring them back to their countries, or they’re going to take criminals out and put them in prison,” Trump told reporters outside the White House on Friday. “We’re focused on criminals as much as we can.”

An ICE spokeswoman said that she could not offer “specific details” about the operation, but that ICE would prioritize “the arrest and removal of unlawfully present aliens who pose a threat to national security, public safety and border security.”

Immigrant advocates and protesters have said the operation is intended to stoke fear in the nation’s immigrant communities, and will target immigrants who have not committed crimes.

“We’re here to say, we are fighting back,” said Lydia Walther-Rodriguez, with the advocacy group CASA, as she looked over a group of protesters in Baltimore on Friday. “We are here asking for dignity and respect.”

Nick Steiner, an attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, has said his organization is working to educate undocumented immigrants of their rights, including staying silent and consulting with a lawyer before answering questions from ICE officials.

“ICE may ask people about their [immigration] status,” he said. “It’s really important for them to know what their rights are if they’re being questioned by law enforcement.”

City leaders in Baltimore, all Democrats, have declared their support for the city’s immigrant population and stressed that city police are prohibited from aiding federal immigration officials in civil investigations.

“Immigrants who call Baltimore home should not live in fear of family separation and deportation, and I will continue to do all that is in my power so that all Baltimore residents, including immigrants, feel safe and welcome in our city,” said Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young in a statement Friday.

“We will not, in our city, help ICE in any way,” said City Council President Brandon Scott.

Protests have occurred in communities surrounding Baltimore as well, and officials from other counties have joined Baltimore officials in voicing their support for immigrant communities.

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“We will not let [people] stop us from being kind and caring to our neighbors, whoever they may be,” said Carmen Christiana, a community outreach coordinator for County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr.

Hogan has broken ranks with other Republicans and with the Trump administration on immigration policy before.

Last year, Hogan recalled a small unit of Maryland National Guard soldiers helping to patrol the southern U.S. border amid a national outcry about separating migrant children from their families.

“Immigration enforcement efforts should focus on criminals, not separating innocent children from their families,” Hogan tweeted at the time.

Last month, Hogan announced that he was forming a national organization aimed at promoting bipartisanship called “An America United," which he said would encourage the idea of Democrats and Republicans “working together."

Democrats in the state have derided him for those plans, accusing him of disinvesting in Baltimore, among other critiques, including by refusing to release funding for more than 70 of Maryland Democrats’ favored initiatives in the state budget.

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