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April 11, 2017

Advocates Slam Maryland Senate Leadership for Failing Immigrant and Muslim Families

Stand Ready to Protect Immigrants Against ICE in Local Communities, in the Courts, and in the Voting Booth

ANNAPOLIS, MD (April 11, 2017) _ After strong opposition from Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller and Committee Chair Sen. Bobby Zirkin resulted in stripping the Maryland Trust Act of all of its substance, members of the Maryland Senate decided to pull the bill to dispel the notion that it contained meaningful protections for immigrants and Muslims in Maryland.

The Trust Act, a top priority of civil rights, faith-based, labor, and progressive organizations, was advanced to proactively shield Maryland's immigrants and Muslims from the worst excesses of a federal administration that swept into office with promises to target those communities.  More than 60 organizations and political leaders endorsed the legislation and activists from across the state jammed phone lines and Twitter feeds, and filled legislative offices in support of the bill.

"At no time in recent history have immigrant and Muslim communities in Maryland needed more protection than at the present moment," said Sirine Shebaya, Consulting Attorney for the ACLU of Maryland. "Unfortunately, the Senate leadership has refused to join ranks with leaders across the country in opposing the targeting of these communities, and has left them vulnerable to increasingly draconian and misguided immigration enforcement and profiling efforts."

The Senate inaction came after a large majority of delegates passed a bill three weeks previously that took bold steps to protect Marylanders.  Advocates celebrated that at least one chamber recognized the value of immigrant lives.  They furthermore recognized the efforts of some Senate Democrats, including the 24 co-sponsors of the bill as well as Judicial Proceedings Committee members Senators Delores G. Kelley, Susan Lee, C. Anthony Muse, Victor Ramirez , and William C. Smith Jr. who worked hard to improve the Senate version despite opposition from their committee chair and the Senate President. Also, in a historic move, the bill was strongly supported by a concerted effort of the three Caucuses representing legislators of color - the Asian Pacific American Legislative Caucus, the Maryland Black Caucus and the Maryland Latino Caucus.

"In contrast to Senate leadership, other legislators refused to cower before the President and Governor," said CASA in Action's President Gustavo Torres.  "Our disappointment is tempered by the remarkable commitment of elected officials who stood up for the fundamental American principals of fairness and family."

Despite the setback, advocates march forward celebrating the recent victories in Baltimore County and the City of Hyattsville and plan campaigns for swift passage in other localities.  Advocates also expect Maryland's Attorney General Brian Frosh to offer guidance on the constitutionality of police and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement tactics.

"Luckily, the General Assembly and certainly not the Governor are the final line of defense for our families," Torres said.  "We will fight back in the streets, in the courts, and in our localities for the rights our families deserve."
For the many thousands of activists that have been pouring into rallies and lobby meetings in support of Maryland's immigrant and Muslim families, the session underscored the need to mobilize communities around election opportunities in 2018.

"In some states, Democrats are tapping into a new grassroots movement," said Roxie Herbokian, President of Unite Here Local 7 and leader of Our Revolution in Maryland.  "But on Trust, Bail Reform, and many other issues, too many Maryland Democrats showed they are out of touch with that grassroots energy. Unless they reckon with this new movement, that wave of energy will sweep them aside."