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Baltimore's leaders must stand up to ICE on criminalizing immigrants

Baltimore's leaders must stand up to ICE on criminalizing immigrants
Daisy Galarza and Laura Costilla are concerned about possible ICE raids in Baltimore. (Kenneth K. Lam / Baltimore Sun)

I applaud Baltimore City government’s recent statement that it is a “welcoming city for immigrants” and will resist ICE regarding potential raids on our Latinx community starting as early as July 5th, and more likely beginning this weekend (“Mayor Young, Police Commissioner Harrison declare support for Baltimore’s immigrant community, rebuke Trump,” July 2). It is the least Baltimore should do, but regrettably Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young’s public comments included a gaping exception. Police Commissioner Michael Harrison stated that his department will not engage in any civil immigration law enforcement. The commissioner said the new policy will continue to support ICE when executing criminal warrants or court orders, which raises concern.

Here’s the problem. Under existing immigration law, the city delineates a difference between civil law and criminal law enforcement at a moment when that difference no longer really matters to immigration law enforcement. The offense of crossing the border without authorization — creating the legal category of undocumented immigrant — can be enforced under criminal and civil law. While immigration law is the province of civil law and administrative process, ICE has increasingly criminalized civil law violations under the racist INA Section 1325, which has been in the books since 1929 and which categorizes undocumented entry as a criminal misdemeanor for a first time entry. Section 1325 has been used as the basis for Operation Streamline at the border and has served as a foundational building block in the criminalization of immigration.

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Mayor Young and Commissioner Harrison must clarify the city’s position to insist that Baltimore will not target the undocumented community under Section 1325. Clarification is a must to help alleviate fear and confusion and ensure Latinx residents are safe this holiday weekend and in the weeks and months ahead.

Robert E. Koulish, Baltimore

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