HOWARD COUNTY, MD — Across the country and in Maryland, we have seen a variety of abuses that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) immigration officials have done to immigrants, like the cruel bait and switch enforcement tactic and refusing to release medically vulnerable detained immigrants during a pandemic. It is imperative to break ties with ICE in every county. Howard County Councilmember Liz Walsh introduced County Bill (CB) 51 to end the 25-year ICE contract in Howard County. The bill only needs three county council votes to pass and four for a veto-proof majority. On October 2nd, the Howard County Coalition for Immigrant Justice (HCCIJ) joined through Zoom to share impactful stories about their detention in the Jessup Correctional Institution and to discuss why ending the contract is so necessary.
Among the speakers, Anna Rubin, Co-Chair of the Columbia Jewish Congregation Social Justice Committee, Executive Director of CASA, Maria Rivas, Jose Santos Quintero, Nick Taichi Steiner, Attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Maryland, Indivisible, Jews United for Justice, Our Revolution Howard, Howard County Council members Liz Walsh and Deb Jung, and other members of the Howard County Coalition for Immigrant Justice, spoke about the horrors of immigration detention and the need to eradicate contracts that allow ICE to hold people in immigration detention.
Nick Taichi Steiner said: “Immigrants in Howard County shouldn’t have to live in fear, feel like outsiders, or be treated horribly for merely existing. Detention is often unnecessary and always a traumatic experience for people. Immigrants can still remain with their families, without being put in a cage. We need to reduce the number of beds ICE can use to separate families in ways that are often unconstitutional.”
Even with the awful stories of immigration detention in the Jessup Correctional Institution, Howard County’s contract with ICE is still in place. ICE is still renting beds and separating families. And immigrants continue to live in fear. HCCIJ demands that the County Council support emergency legislation to decrease the number of beds ICE can rent, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is immoral for Howard County to profit off of the pain of immigrants, placing them in harm’s way. The coalition is determined to keep showing up until the County Council passes CB 51 and ends the ICE contract.