Republican Gov. Larry Hogan recalled a small unit of Maryland National Guard soldiers helping to patrol the southern U.S. border on Tuesday amid a national outcry about separating migrant children from their families.
Hogan joined a bipartisan wave of governors across the country revoking resources along the Mexican border in protest of an immigration policy widely condemned by both sides of the aisle.
In Maryland a chorus of Democrats running for governor and other state leaders — from U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings to Catholic Archbishop William E. Lori — demanded President Donald J. Trump and Congress end a “zero tolerance” policy that has separated nearly 2,000 children from their parents in recent weeks.
Hogan announced in a tweet that he would rescind all resources until Trump’s administration reversed the policy.
“Immigration enforcement efforts should focus on criminals, not separating innocent children from their families,” the governor tweeted. He said that early Tuesday he ordered the four Maryland National Guard crew members and their helicopter to return from their station in New Mexico.
The Maryland guard members were sent to the border early this month, according to Hogan administration officials.
Hogan’s Democratic rivals had been pressuring the governor to take action over the border crisis, as other governors from both parties have.
The Trump administration recently began enforcing a “zero-tolerance” policy that criminally prosecutes anyone trying to cross the border illegally, including parents traveling with children. Adults are sent to the U.S. Marshals Service for criminal proceedings while many children are sent to facilities run by the Department of Health and Human Services. Nearly 2,000 children were separated from their families over a six-week period in April and May.
Audio of crying children and images of them — including those being kept in a converted Walmart near the Texas border — has sparked outrage across the country.
U.S. Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger met on Tuesday with two Honduran men at a Glen Burnie facility who had been separated from their children.
The men were apprehended in the Southwest and sent to the Ordinance Road Correctional Center because resources near the border were scarce, said Jaime Lennon, a spokeswoman for the Baltimore County Democrat. She said one man had a 5-year-old son, the other a 7-year-old daughter.
“When they started talking about their kids, it was emotional. They were crying,” Ruppersberger said. “As a grandfather and as a father, we can’t allow this to continue to happen. If you want to send them back, fine. But don’t separate them from their children.”
On Monday, Republican Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts announced that he would not send promised resources to the border and Gov. John Hickenlooper of Denver, a Democrat, signed an executive order barring any state resources from helping to enforce the policy. On Tuesday, Democratic Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo said she would refuse any Trump administration requests for National Guard help on the border. A few hours after Hogan’s announcement, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, also a Democrat, withdrew his state’s National Guard helicopter and crew from the border.
A CNN poll released Monday found two-thirds of Americans object to the practice of separating children from their families and housing them in government facilities. All living former first ladies have publicly decried the practice.
In the hours leading up to Hogan’s tweet, several of the six Maryland Democrats vying for their party’s nomination to be governor called on him to withdraw the guard.
State Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. held a news conference to protest what he called a “torturous, monstrous policy.” Former NAACP chief Ben Jealous released a statement to Hogan saying “as governor, your job is to stand firm for our values and have the courage to move Maryland forward no matter what happens in Washington.” Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III issued a statement calling the policy “inhumane, immoral and repugnant.”
In Washington, Trump was scheduled to meet Tuesday afternoon with House Republicans to discuss immigration legislation. In a series of tweets on Tuesday, the president again blamed Democrats for the crisis, saying they had a lax approach to the immigration enforcement.
“Now is the best opportunity ever for Congress to change the ridiculous and obsolete laws on immigration,” Trump said.
Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, departed from his prepared remarks at a hearing to condemn Trump’s policies and urge his Republican colleagues to stand up to the president on the family separation issue.
“We should all be able to agree that we will not keep kids in child internment camps — indefinitely and hidden away from public view. What country is that?” the Baltimore Democrat said.
Mayor Catherine E. Pugh released a statement calling the separation of parents and children “a nightmare for them and for those of us who know in our hearts that this is not what America is about.”
Archbishop Lori of Baltimore issued a statement saying “there can be no reasonable justification” for separating children from their parents to enforce the law.
“This action threatens the stability of families, unduly inflicts trauma and hardship on those involved, including innocent children, and runs counter to the compassion and justice that are foundational to our American society,” Lori said.
Madaleno held his news conference outside the Howard County Detention Center in Jessup, which he identified as one of three sites in Maryland used by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, to detain immigrants. The others are in Frederick and Worcester counties, he said.
Accompanied by four Democratic state delegates and state Sen. Susan C. Lee, Madaleno urged Howard and the other counties to “stop taking the blood money from ICE in order to do this.”
Jack Kavanagh, director of corrections for Howard County, said the center’s agreement with federal immigration authorities goes back as far as the 1990s. He said the county is paid $90 a day per person to house detained adult male immigrants.
Kavanagh said the center does not hold men who are picked up for immigration violations. He said the 60 to 100 immigrants held there for an average stay are typically people who have been released from prison after serving their sentences and who are awaiting deportation.
“These are not choir boys,” he said. “These are dangerous people.”
The Maryland National Guard has helped patrol the southern border on several occasions under both Hogan and his Democratic predecessor, Martin O’Malley. According to Hogan’s office, the Maryland guard has been participating in such operations since as far back as 2000.