Montgomery County officials said Tuesday they will no longer honor federal requests to hold illegal immigrants beyond their scheduled release date unless U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement can demonstrate the person is likely to have committed a crime.
The decision means three of Maryland's four largest jurisdictions -- Montgomery and Prince George's counties along with Baltimore city -- have changed long-standing policies this year that treated the federal immigration detainers the same as criminal warrants.
"I have decided that, effective immediately, Montgomery County will no longer comply with ICE detainer requests except for those requests that have adequate support for a finding of probable cause under the Fourth Amendment," Montgomery County Executive Isiah "Ike" Leggett wrote in a memo Tuesday.
The policy is a response to a recent letter from the office of the Maryland attorney general that suggested holding immigrants on "detainers" requested by ICE without probable cause to believe they are criminals could violate the Fourth Amendment.
Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat, issued a similar policy in August for the state-run jail in Baltimore. And Prince George's County officials announced their own policy change late last month.
Immigration advocates such as CASA de Maryland and the ACLU of Maryland have applauded the decisions to end the practice, which led to the deportation of hundreds of immigrants in Maryland who entered the country illegally but had committed no crime here.
A Baltimore Sun analysis this year found that more than 40 percent of the immigrants deported from the state under the system had no prior criminal record. That percentage was far greater than the national average.