“What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!” were the chants of protesters and community activists outside of the Baltimore County Courthouse at Patriot Plaza in Towson May 30. The activists were there to protest Section 287g of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act.

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz spoke out against efforts to allow county police officers to ask individuals about their immigration status. (Courtesy photo)

The federal law grants power to the Department of Homeland Security to deputize state and local law enforcement agents to act as immigration officers.

A recent bill introduced into the Baltimore County Council would give Baltimore County Police Officers the same rights as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents; allowing them to detain any undocumented immigrant.

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz was one of the political leaders in attendance. “This is a time for real leaders to stand up against hate and bigotry,” Kamenetz said.

Earlier this year, the Maryland General Assembly introduced a bill that would prevent counties from being part of the 287g, but the legislation failed. In April, Kamenetz issued an executive order forbidding county police officers from asking anyone about their immigration status.

Recently, three Baltimore County Councilmen–Todd K. Crandell (R-District 7), Wade Kach (R-District 3), and David Marks (R-District 5)–proposed legislative bill 32-17, which would have the county’s jail join federal efforts to identify undocumented immigrants who are arrested. A vote is expected to take place June 5.

Kamenetz said that if 32-17 passes, he will veto it. The bill “is not only unconstitutional, it’s un-American,” he said at the rally.

Councilwoman Vicki Almond (D-District 2) called the proposed bill “a bad piece of legislation.”

Aixa Nunez, a Honduran CASA Youth Council member and senior at Owings Mills High School, said while most of her classmates are worried about college, she is constantly worried about her mother, as well as other family members, fearing that they will be detained by officers.

Pastor Brian Murray of New Covenant Community United Church in Christ in Pikesville challenged the politicians to put their “political leverage behind having Congress move forward to get us some decent immigration laws in this country.”