Legislation to ban contractor-operated ICE detention facilities in Maryland

In April 2019, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) posted a notice in a federal contracts forum, seeking to identify potential locations in Maryland for a detention facility. The new facility would join the three existing ICE detention centers in Maryland, which are located in Frederick, Howard and Worcester counties.

The ICE ad was posted a few months after they terminated an agreement with Anne Arundel County to house up to 130 detainees at a facility in Glen Burnie, MD. ICE was paying Anne Arundel County at least $1.7 million a year under the contract.

The cancellation came after County Executive Steuart Pittman ended Anne Arundel’s participation in its ICE’s 287(g) program, in which 12 county guards shared information about alien inmates with federal authorities.

In December, the Washington Post reported that Vaughn M. Stewart III, a Democrat who represents Montgomery County in the Maryland House of Delegates, was working on legislation that would phase out the states's role in privately run immigrant detention facilities, with a complete ban in effect by October 2021.

Having been shown a draft version of the bill, the Post observed that is was modeled after similar legislation that was signed into law by California Governor Gavin Newsom in October.

HB-677 and SB-850: The self-righteously named ‘Dignity Not Detention Act’

Maryland HB-677 and SB-850 are identical pieces of legislation, introduced respectively in the House of Representatives and Senate of the Maryland General Assembly. Both were given the title Correctional Services - Immigration Detention - Prohibition (Dignity Not Detention Act).

Led by Delegate Vaughn Stewart, HB-677 has more than 40 co-sponsors. SB-850 has 12 sponsors, led by Senator Charles Sydnor, who represents Baltimore City and districts to its west.

This demonstrates very considerable support, since the House of Delegates has a total of 141 members, while the State Senate has 47 members. The Democratic Party has an overwhelming majority of seats in both chambers of the Maryland General Assembly.

The bills would add two completely new sections to the Annotated Code of Maryland, Correctional Services; namely Sections 1–102 and 1–103.

Section 1-102 contains a statement of ‘principles’; this is how it would conclude:

Issues of liability, accountability, and cost warrant a prohibition on the ownership, operation, or management of detention facilities by private contractors, as well as a phasing out of the involvement of state and local officials in civil immigration detention to the fullest extent permitted under state law.

Part (A) of Section 1-103 is where the essential changes introduced by this legislation are spelled out. Government units in Maryland and their agents would be prohibited from taking the following actions:

  1. Entering into an agreement for the detention of individuals in an immigration detention facility owned or operated by a private contractor.
  2. Paying for or subsidizing costs related to the purchase, development, or operation of an ICE detention facility that will be privately owned or operated.
  3. Receiving payment for the detention of individuals in an immigration detention facility owned or operated by a private contractor.
  4. Financing the purchase, construction, or operation of an ICE detention facility that will be privately owned or operated.

Part (B) would prohibit government units or agents in Maryland from issuing a permit for a private immigration detention facility, and part (C) would forbid them from renewing an agreement for such a facility and to terminate all such agreements by October 1, 2021.

As of February 15, HB-677 has been referred to the Judiciary Committee, where it had its first of a potential three readings. SB-850 also had its first reading and was referred to the Judicial Proceedings Committee.

Disclaimer: Information on this website is not legal advice.