Since April, more than 40 people who entered the United States illegally have been released from the Baltimore County jail despite requests from the feds to hold them.
On April 5, County Executive Kevin Kamenetz signed an executive order. In part, it said if you are in the country without legal permission and you wind up in the county jail, you will be let out on your release date. The jail will not hold you beyond that date unless there is an immigration warrant from federal authorities to do so.
“The existence of a written executive order is going to give people in the community assurances and security,” Kamenetz said at the time.
Since then, the county Department of Corrections has ignored detainers from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, in 42 cases, and those people were set free on their release date, according to county spokeswoman Ellen Kobler. During that same period, the jail handed over 15 people to ICE because there were judicial immigration warrants against them.
Some of those released or turned over to ICE had been convicted of crimes. Others had made bail or had the charges againt them dropped.
Kamenetz is a Democrat. But this is an issue that is dividing the three Democrats who are running to be the next County Executive.
State Senator Jim Brochin takes issue with this part of Kamenetz’s executive order. He says he will change it if he’s elected.
“I think if you have an ICE detainer on you and you committed a crime like felony assault or murder or rape I think that ICE detainer should be upheld and you should wait for ICE to come and interview somebody because it’s the second time they’ve committed a crime and they’re here illegally,” Brochin said.
But Brochin’s two opponents for the Democratic nomination, former State Delegate Johnny Olszewski Junior and Councilwoman Vicki Almond support what the jail is doing.
Almond said, “Every day there is a report that goes to ICE about the intake and about who has been let out. So we’re responsible in Baltimore County and we’re doing what we’re supposed to do.”
Kamenetz is term limited so he can’t run for county executive again. Instead, he’s running for the Democratic nomination for governor next year.
On the Republican side, the candidates are in solidarity in their opposition to the executive order. Al Redmer said the county should cooperate with other government agencies.
“With crime being what it is. Gang activity being what it is. Drugs being what it is. I think that anywhere the county can go for help they should do,” Redmer said.
The other Republican in the race is Delegate Pat McDonough. He said if elected he will work closely with federal immigration authorities.