O’Malley tightens rules on federal immigration requests
Move a response to AG opinion raising questions of constitutionality
10:20 p.m. EDT, August 29, 2014
Gov. Martin O’Malley has imposed strict new rules to limit when the state may hold immigrants in Baltimore’s jail at the request of federal authorities, dealing a new blow to a national program intended to catch people who are in the country illegally.
The governor’s policy, which was made public Friday by immigration advocates, comes in response to a recent opinion from the Maryland attorney general’s office, which found that detaining immigrants in local jails beyond their scheduled release without probable cause is likely a violation of the Fourth Amendment.
Probable cause — the legal standard police use to obtain a warrant — is far more stringent than the standard that federal officials have used to request the state to hold immigrants.
The attorney general’s opinion, along with the precedent set by O’Malley, significantly undercuts a federal program known as Secure Communities that was intended to focus deportation efforts on immigrants who broke laws after they entered the country. A Baltimore Sun analysis this year found that more than 40 percent of the immigrants deported in the state under the program had no prior criminal record — far higher than the national average.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, which has been advocating on the issue for years, praised O’Malley’s decision to limit when the state would honor the federal requests known as detainers.
The governor’s decision applies only to the state-run jail in Baltimore, but immigration groups said the attorney general’s opinion should prompt local jurisdictions to adopt similar policies.
“We applaud this news from the governor recognizing the fundamental constitutional rights of all Marylanders,” said Gustavo Torres, executive director of CASA de Maryland, the state’s most prominent advocacy group for immigrants. “Under Governor O’Malley’s leadership, Maryland has knit together a community and we look forward to counties across the state following suit.”
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