The country’s largest Muslim advocacy group applauded legislation that was introduced to the Howard County Council in Maryland that would specifically prohibit discrimination in the county on the basis of citizenship status. Howard County would thus join other so-called “sanctuary” cities and jurisdictions that offer a safe haven for illegal aliens. The bill (Council Bill 9-2017) was introduced by council members Calvin Ball and Jen Terrasa, both Democrats. 
 
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation's largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today welcomed the introduction of a bill to declare a "sanctuary county" to protect immigrant rights. In a statement, Dr. Zainab Chaudry of CAIR declared: “If passed, this legislation would send a strong message to Howard County's most vulnerable communities that they have allies who are working to guarantee their safety and the peaceful pursuit of their dreams."
 
CAIR Government Affairs Director Robert McCaw added, “"Until Congress is able to pass comprehensive immigration reform - reform that includes a roadmap for citizenship for the nation's 11 million undocumented residents - we should respect the rights and dignity of all persons residing in the United States and provide sanctuary to the countless families that face the looming threat of having a loved one deported at a moment's notice." CAIR will present testimony, later this month, in a hearing on the bill. If passed, Howard County would join a list of other counties and cities known as sanctuaries in Maryland, including Baltimore, Prince George's County and Montgomery County. The latter two jurisdictions are adjacent to Washington DC.
 
Calvin Ball (in blue shirt) stands with members of Howard County Muslim Council.
 
The bill's introduction reads:
 
"The recent national political climate has galvanized support for xenophobic, Islamophobic and racist sentiments within certain portions of the population, resulting in increased incidents of hate speech and violence. Unfortunate statements made by our nation's President-elect have bolstered such dangerous sentiments and caused many residents throughout our country and within Howard County to fear for their personal safety and the loss of civil liberties. The Howard County Council wishes to ensure that all residents of Howard County, regardless of nationality or citizenship, shall have fair and equal access to county benefits, opportunities and services."
 
If passed, local police and sheriff’s deputies would be prevented from inquiring about immigration status, unless in the pursuance of investigating a crime. The new law would also apply to school officials.
 
According to council member Ball, “College students who’d gone through the Howard County Public Schools — they were concerned about being targeted because of their immigration status. And when I hear stories like that, I just feel compelled to stand up for them.” Ball said that local law enforcement officials should not be called upon to enforce federal immigration law. 
 
Howard County Executive Allan H. Kittleman is a Republican. Neither he nor Police Chief Gary Gardner has expressed an opinion on the bill. The lone Republican on the five-seat council, Greg Fox, has dismissed the measure as mere political posturing. 

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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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