FREDERICK, Md. - A state senator is sponsoring a controversial bill in the Maryland General Assembly changing the way local law enforcement deals with illegal immigrants.
State Senator Victor Ramirez will introduce the Maryland Trust Act. It prohibits police from holding illegal immigrants for transfer to federal immigration authorities, unless they have been convicted of or charged with a serious crime.
"They may be sitting there for one day. They may be sitting there for several days and sometimes they may not even come. It could all be from a failure to drive without a license," said Ramirez (D) - Prince George's County.
Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins has helped to detain more than 1,200 illegal immigrants over the past five years through the 287(g) U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) program, but that could be a little harder if the bill passes.
"What this does I think really waters down and undermines the role of law in the country," Jenkins (R) said. "We've already weakened the immigration laws. We don't enforce it."
Jenkins says he will call every delegate and senator if the bill is introduced. He even plans on going to Annapolis to testify against it.
The sheriff says the bill overrules federal law, which says state or local law enforcement shall hold a detainee up to two days until they're turned over to federal officials.
Ramirez says many of people who are held are racially profiled.
"Some of it's being targeted towards a certain community," Ramirez said. "85 percent of he people that fall into this category are from Latino origin, and they base this on the last name or the surname."
"The fact that they're here, a lot illegally, and when those folks are arrested for a crime and detained, yes, the numbers look high, but they are what they area," Jenkins said. "If we had a huge Asian population, it would be Asians. If we had a huge Russian population, it would be Russians."
A similar law passed in California last year called the California Trust Act.