Howard County Council Candidates on Immigration

Jon Weinstein, Councilmember 

Howard County Council District 1 Candidate Questionnaire

  1. Do you think all Howard County departments should have a written, public policy on staff interactions with immigrants? If so, which languages would be your first priority for translating the documents?

I have worked closely with the Indivisible Immigration Action Team, FIRN, and the county government to clarify, document and communicate policies related to county personnel interactions with people in the immigrant community. As far as languages, clearly Spanish, Korean, Chinese (various dialects), Hindi and Irdu. FIRN reports that their clients speak over 70 different languages, so I’d defer to experts in the community to determine other frequently used languages.

  1. Under what circumstances should HoCo police or the sheriff’s department cooperate with ICE?

I worked with the community, county government and HCPD to develop a more clearly documented policy, Policy 10 which documents their interactions with foreign nationals. Regarding ICE, the policy explains that “The HCPD participates in task forces when the primary focus does not involve the enforcement of civil violations of federal immigration laws. Officers may be assigned to federal task forces that investigate criminal activity such as human trafficking, terrorist acts, narcotics, child pornography, money laundering, hate crimes, etc.” Here’s a link to policy FAQs:: https://www.howardcountymd.gov/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=m2GAtC6r4kE%3d&portalid=0

The Sheriff’s department is not under the jurisdiction of the County, but rather state laws and primarily works to secure the courts and serve warrants. I do not believe the Howard County Sheriff would have any reasons beyond those outlined by HCPD to cooperate with ICE.

  1. Would you like to see CB-9 (the Howard County “sanctuary” bill) come before the County Council again after the next election?

No. I did not support CB9-2017 for a number of reasons and believe that those reasons are still appropriate. A couple key reasons I did not vote for CB9 and will not support a similar “sanctuary” bill include:

At the time, Howard County had many of the elements in place that self-proclaimed sanctuary cities had. Simply adding a label, as CB9 would have done, provided no real benefit to the people it purported to protect. Many of the additional elements that I have worked to add (see below) provide real relief for these fears with practical, operational actions that cannot be legislated effectively.

I feared the Trump administration would focus and execute direct action against undocumented immigrants in jurisdictions that established or promoted their sanctuary status. This has been their modus operandi, with “immigration actions” across the US focused on these jurisdictions. I believed that Howard County, with its proximity to DC and the press around CB9 would have been a great opportunity for Trump to make an example of us. Being a sanctuary jurisdiction provides NO protection for undocumented citizens when ICE is involved and local governments cannot prevent such action by the federal government.

While I did/do not support sanctuary legislation, I was moved by the vile rhetoric used during the 2016 Trump campaign and his threats against immigrants, and know this induced real fear and uncertainty in the immigrant community. With this in mind, I worked diligently with people in the community to implement actions to provide tangible benefits for the people the bill was purported to help.In my remarks when I voted against CB9, I asked the County Executive and relevant non-profit organizations to work together to review our existing policies and practices to insure that County employees, in the conduct of their official duties, do not deny services based on an individual’s immigration status nor inquire into their status, except as required by federal or state law. Among the community groups answering this call were FIRN, HopeWorks, #OneHoward, and the Indivisible Immigration Action Team.

A few key results have included:

Comprehensive review of county policies to determine opportunities to clarify interactions with the foreign born community.

A new and comprehensive HCPD policy documenting interactions with foreign nationals (see entire policy here

https://www.howardcountymd.gov/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=LM1LKIrFcPM%3d&portalid=0)

I believe this is one of the more comprehensive documented policies in the region. MOU between FIRN and HCPD to enable FIRN to enhance trust, communication, and engagement between HCPD and the County’s foreign-born community. FIRN has reported that since the policy and MOU have gone into effect, they’re seeing increased willingness among this community to report crimes. In a couple instances, the HCPD has helped to facilitate undocumented people procuring appropriate visas.

In total, I believe these outcomes have done more to provide real and practical support to people in our immigrant community than passing CB9 or its equivalent. I’m grateful to the members of the Indivisible Immigration Action Team who I have worked closely with to achieve many of the outcomes outlined here.

  1. Should the County Council pass a measure prohibiting HoCo from entering into 287(g) agreements with ICE?

I do not believe such a measure is necessary nor do I believe the County would enter any such agreement. Also, it is not clear whether the Council has the authority to prohibit the countyadministration from entering into agreements like this.

  1. What could be done to improve HoCo services to immigrants?

As I mentioned above, I have worked closely with the Indivisible Immigration Action Team, FIRN, and the county government to clarify and communicate policies related to county personnel interactions with people in the immigrant community. A couple additional areas of improvement include:

Expand the translation services available to people who interact with county personnel and the languages available on County Internet sites.

Establishing a forum or group to coordinate services among the various network of service providers and organizations (nonprofit and faith-based) that serve, or whose members are, immigrants. The most effective way to reach people in the immigrant community is through the organizations and communication channels with which they are most comfortable and are connected. In many situations, immigrants do not look to the government (whether local, state, or federal) for assistance or guidance. This increases the importance of coordinated services and communication across the nonprofit and faith-based communities.