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Hundreds march in Ellicott City to protest Howard County’s relationship with ICE

HoCo for Justice and others marched from the county circuit court to Main Street Ellicott City to protest the county's support for the ICE detention center.

As cars swerved through Ellicott City’s Main Street for the usual Saturday night rush, protesters and organizers from local social justice organizations packed a nearby parking lot as part of a demonstration against Howard County’s contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Marchers had left the court house and traversed Main Street, a car caravan following behind. A couple hundred protesters landed in Lot F to listen to prepared remarks.

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Some speakers who had attended and spoke at a protest last month were back Saturday to speak out against the county’s contract with ICE. Miguel Ramos was one of them.

Ramos spent over a month as an ICE detainee in the Howard County Detention Center in September after being arrested for driving without a license, he said. He got out after paying a $10,000 bond.

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”I’m going to fight until the end because I don’t want my other countrymen to be incarcerated,” Ramos said through a translator. “I’m going to keep struggling because I don’t want my rights nor anyone else’s rights to be taken away by police or ICE.”

Howard County’s contract with ICE allows immigration detainees to be held in the Howard County Detention Center in Jessup. The center does not hold women or children as ICE detainees.

The protest was organized by a number of local social justice organizations including HoCo for Justice, CASA, Howard County Coalition for Immigrant Justice, Indivisible HoCo and Audelia Community Response Team.

Elkridge residents DJ Guda, 20, and Kyrin Cox, 18, came out to join after they saw promotion for the event on Instagram. Guda said when he saw the flier for the event he dropped what he was doing and drove over.

”We live in one of the richest areas in America, and we can still bring people out for the cause,” Cox said. “It’s crazy that we keep having to do this.”

Zachary Marsh, 31, a Laurel resident, agreed with Cox’s sentiment, and added that his attendance as a white person helped to bring safety in numbers.

”There are a lot of fights happening, and it’s important to be a part of the big national conversations,” he said, “but it’s also really important to fight the local fights because there are a lot of lanes in the road to social change and they all need our attention.”

Last month CASA and the Howard County Coalition for Immigrant Justice organized a protest outside the George Howard Building in Ellicott City, where the offices of the county council and the county executive are located.

Besides Howard, Frederick and Worcester are the other two counties in the state that receive money from ICE to house people detained by the federal agency at their jails. In January 2019, Anne Arundel County ended its ICE contract.

Howard County does not participate in the 287(g) program, in which county jails screen inmates for immigration violations after ICE trains local police in federal immigration law. However, Cecil, Frederick and Harford counties do participate in the program.

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