HYATTSVILLE -- A group of prominent Hispanic elected leaders, including state Sen. Victor R. Ramirez, announced Tuesday they are backing former Prince George's County State's Attorney Glenn Ivey's run Congress, representing one of the first efforts by any candidate in Maryland to publicly court the constituency.
The endorsements from Ramirez, Del. Will Campos and Brentwood Mayor Rocio Treminio-Lopez, among others, came to Ivey despite the fact that a well-known Hispanic official is also seeking the seat. Del. Joseline A. Pena-Melnyk -- who was born in the Dominican Republic and is chair of the Maryland Latino Legislative Caucus -- is also reaching out to the community.
Ivey is running for the 4th Congressional District, which is based in Prince George's County but also include portions of Anne Arundel County. It is currently held by Rep. Donna F. Edwards, who is running for Senate.
"It's to time to stop treating our neighbors like second-class citizens," said Ivey, who touted his efforts to reach out to Latino residents as prosecutor. "It's time to turn to each other and not on each other."
It's not clear that there are any real distinctions on immigration policy among any of the Democrats running for the seat. Ivey said Tuesday he supports the bipartisan immigration bill approved by the Senate in 2013, and he signaled that he also backed President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration last year.
In addition to Ivey and Pena-Melnyk, former Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, Del. Dereck E. Davis, former County Council member Ingrid M. Turner and Alvin Thornton, a Howard University professor, are running for the seat.
Pena-Melnyk noted that she has also received many endorsements, including from Latino leaders. Her campaign is supported by Gustavo Torres, the executive director of CASA, for instance, and BOLD PAC, the political action committee of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
"For nine years in Maryland's General Assembly, I worked hard on issues that are important to all working families, including Latinos," Pena-Melnyk said in a statement. "My candidacy has broad support from elected officials and community leaders in both Prince George's and Anne Arundel Counties."
Asked whether local jurisdictions should alert federal immigration agents when a person in the country illegally is released from a local jail -- an issue at the center of the killing of Kathryn Steinle in San Francisco -- Ivey said local governments should alert Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the case of violent criminals.
"For non-violent offenders it tends to be more destructive than beneficial," he said, recalling that witnesses for violent crime -- including gang-related violence -- were sometimes deported before a case was concluded. "It's really damaging to the community in a way that leaving them here would not be."
The Senate passed a landmark, bipartisan immigration bill in 2013 that included a pathway to citizenship for some of the estimated 11 million people in the country illegally. The Republican-led House did not take a vote on the measure and, since then, the GOP has also captured control of the Senate.
"We know that Glenn Ivey will do the right thing when the cameras aren't on him," said Ramirez, who has been an outspoken leader on Hispanic issues in the General Assembly. "He's brought many communities together."