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Letters: Howard County Executive Calvin Ball, cancel the contract with ICE to hold detainees | READER COMMENTARY

County Executive Ball, cancel contract with ICE

CB-51, a bill to end Howard County’s contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to house immigrants in the Howard County Detention Center, passed the County Council in October and was immediately vetoed by County Executive Calvin Ball. A veto override failed Nov. 2. Howard County sadly continues its contract with ICE despite well-documented abuses.

In October, Los Angeles County agreed to pay $14 million to immigrants who were rearrested for the civil violation of being an undocumented immigrant after a judge ordered them released from their criminal cases — our exact situation. This precedent could lead to similar liabilities in Howard County.

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On Oct. 30, the Department of Homeland Security released a report about abuses and failures of the detention center in Jessup, including unwarranted strip and body-cavity searches among “low-custody” detainees after meeting with their lawyers and/or praying at an attached chapel in the jail.

This report clearly disproves the major justification Ball cites for vetoing CB-51: Our prison is a humane facility where detainees are treated well.

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Council member Davud Yungmann voted against CB-51 and the veto override because the contract generates about $2 million annually, subsidizing the cost of maintaining the entire prison complex.

Council member Opel Jones voted against CB-51 and the override because of concern detainees won’t be near their families and won’t have access to lawyers. While many detainees are from Maryland, countless families live miles away without access to transportation. Moreover, there’s no data on how many detainees actually see lawyers. Until that information is available, the argument for legal access rings hollow.

Council members Liz Walsh and Deb Jung are staunch supporters of the bill.

Council member Christiana Mercer Rigby voted for CB-51 but abstained voting to override Ball’s veto, stating the unusual reason that the council had not held additional discussions. This inconsistency is illogical given the new damning information from the DHS report.

Repeatedly, Howard County residents exhibit fervent support for ending the contract through hundreds of emails, oral/written testimony and numerous public demonstrations. Yet, three members refuse to listen to the will of their constituents. We don’t want to profit from or be complicit with an agency as racist, bigoted and immoral as ICE. Nor be a county that sanctions human rights abuses.

County Executive Ball, you have the ability to cancel this contract. Listen to your constituents, get ICE out of our county, and stop profiting from the misery of mostly Black and brown people.

Carla Tevelow

Columbia

Low risk associated with return to the classroom

A recent letter by Ruth Taylor advocating for the reopening of Howard County schools (“It’s past time for schools to be reopened in Howard County,” Oct. 29) came under fire last week in a letter by Ani Thakar, questioning Taylor’s statistic of a 99.8% COVID-19 survival rate for those under 50 years of age (“Not the time to reopen Howard County schools,” Nov. 12). Allow me defend Taylor’s number.

As Thakar reports, the CDC does not give this actual survival rate; rather, it gives death rates by age group. While this was useful for a numerator in computing the rate, I was unable to find the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 by age group to arrive at a denominator. However, the Maryland COVID-19 website does provide data by age group of both the number testing positive and deaths. On the date I visited the site, Nov. 12, the total number of deaths from COVID-19 in Maryland for those aged 0-49 years was 216 and this was from a total of 105,071 confirmed cases in that age group. Doing the division we get a mortality rate of .00206, giving a survival rate of 99.8%

Another letter writer, Kenneth Kepler, although accepting Taylor’s survival rate, gave reasons why schools should nevertheless remain closed (“99.8% survival rate is still unacceptable,” Nov. 12). He posited that a 99.8% survival rate is inadequate because, as he wrote, this means “one child in 500 dies annually in school from COVID-19.” While the math is correct, the conclusion reached is wrong. The 0.2% mortality rate is for those who test positive for COVID-19; Kepler’s conclusion derives from the assumption that all students will test positive for COVID-19 and this is way off the mark. From the Maryland COVID-19 website, there have been only three deaths total in Maryland for the 0-19 age group since COVID-19 first appeared. That’s three out of an under-20 population of approximately 1.1 million over a 10-month span!

Given these facts, it seems the risk to 60,000 Howard County students of COVID-19 death from a return to class are extremely low. Are there COVID-19 risks with going back? Yes, certainly. But there are major risks and a big price to pay for the current stay-at-home approach that our youth are now being subjected to as well. Taylor made a sound case for a return to the classroom.

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John Petro

Columbia

County student wants to go to school in person

I’m responding to Ani Thakar and Kenneth Kepler’s letters. They think refraining from reopening schools is the way to go. I disagree.

As a Howard County Public School System student, I urge the county to reopen schools. COVID-19 is here and here to stay, and the county needs to reopen schools for the children’s sake. Virtual learning forces students to teach themselves, as well as learn at double speed. As a Gifted and Talented eighth grader, I cannot imagine virtual school for kindergartners who can barely read, some not even at all. I don’t think Thakar and Kepler have taken into account the mental toll that virtual school has on students. First graders should not have a stressful school experience, and they should be able to learn with their peers and have human contact with kids their age.

And as for COVID-19′s 99.8% survival rate, the common flu does not have an 100% survival rate and plenty of diseases will never have an 100% survival rate. It is unreasonable to keep kids out of school for so long when the coronavirus will probably never have a 100% survival rate. Yes, COVID-19 is a serious disease, but children without preexisting health issues should be able to be in school.

I do very much agree that kids who are at high-risk or have household family members who are high-risk should have the ability to stay in virtual school, and that parents in general should be able to choose whether their child learns in-person or virtually. A socially distant school environment with masks should have had school in session back in August. My generation cannot learn like this. Schools need to be open.

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Charlotte Harvey

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Columbia

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