Our View: Ready’s bill faces long odds, but makes a lot more sense than the alternative

We’re not particularly optimistic that a bill sponsored by Sen. Justin Ready, R-District 5, regarding undocumented immigrants who commit crimes will gain much traction in the Democrat-majority Maryland General Assembly. Nor the one sponsored by Michael Hough, R-District 4. But both bills are worthy of consideration and are far preferable to the legislation introduced by Democrats that would make collaboration between Maryland law enforcement and federal authorities more difficult.

Ready, who represents most of Carroll County, is the primary sponsor of Senate Bill 332, which would require state and local correctional facilities to notify the U.S. Department of Homeland Security when they have a person in custody who is wanted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), to hold that individual for up to 48 hours and to honor immigration detainers in the same manner as other federal detainers. Hough and 11 other state senators are co-sponsoring. Hough, who represents Frederick County and a small portion of Carroll, is the primary sponsor of Senate Bill 197, which covers much of the same ground. Ready and 13 others are co-sponsoring.


“There’s no law that says they have to communicate with DHS,” Ready told us, noting that in some parts of Maryland, detention centers are releasing immigrants despite detainers from ICE after local criminal charges have been resolved. He mentioned Prince George’s and Montgomery counties.

Carroll County Sheriff Jim DeWees, on the other hand, said his office’s policies are a “mirror image” of the legislation Ready is sponsoring.

About 10 times a year, the Carroll County Detention Center encounters an inmate with an open detainer or warrant through DHS, DeWees wrote in a letter supporting Ready’s bill. When that occurs, DHS is notified and given 48 hours to take custody of the inmate before they are released, according to DeWees. He noted in his letter that DHS is not always interested in pursuing the detainer once they learn the inmate is going to be released. But, other times, DHS wants to take custody of the individual.

Meanwhile, House Bill 388, sponsored by 36 House Democrats, would bring Maryland more in line with sanctuary policies that have proliferated across the country, according to the Aegis, by curtailing state law enforcement’s ability to refer cases to ICE. If adopted, it would make collaboration between Maryland law enforcement and ICE contingent on a judicial warrant and “put up other roadblocks for local agencies moving to collaborate with federal authorities.”

DeWees may or may not have been referring to this bill when he wrote in his letter supporting Ready’s bill, “I simply can’t and won’t have any legislative body tell me I can’t communicate with another law enforcement agency regarding matters of public safety in my county; regardless of whether they are local, state or federal law enforcement.”

Sheriffs from Frederick, Harford and Cecil counties spoke in Annapolis on Tuesday in opposition to that legislation. Frederick County Sheriff Charles Jenkins said: “Effective national security has to involve cooperation with federal agencies. When we effectively do that, we make the streets safer and communities safer.”

Ready’s bill has been heard in the judicial proceedings committee. It remains to be seen whether it will be voted on by the 11-person committee, seven members of which are Democrats.

“We need to do something here,” Ready told us. “I’m going to push as hard as I can to get it passed.”

Ready co-sponsored a bill similar to this one in 2018 and it didn’t get out of committee, so he knows about the odds. If his bill, or Hough’s, don’t pass, however, it would still be a success if they can at least play a role in keeping the alternate, Democrat-backed legislation from going through.