Time-sensitive: Call state legislators, urge them to support the Trust Act

The Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition is a strong proponent of the Maryland Law Enforcement and Governmental Trust Act (HB 1362 / SB 835), Maryland’s “sanctuary” bill that would prevent law enforcement agencies within the state from becoming tools of federal immigration authorities, and would prevent any state funds or resources from being used in the commission of a national religious registry. (Read more about MCCRC’s work on the Trust Act here.)

Some background: March is a busy time of year for the Maryland General Assembly. Barring the possibility of a special session, the Assembly’s legislative session will adjourn for the year on April 10—less than one month away. The deadline for bills to move from one legislative chamber to the other (known as “crossover”) is even sooner: March 20. That effectively leaves activists and interest groups only more week from today to ensure their favored bills make it out of committee for a floor vote, then on to the other chamber for consideration.

So, what does this mean for the Trust Act? It means we need to put some serious pressure on the General Assembly to ensure this bill makes it through.

Senate President Mike Miller, (410) 841-3700 ; House Speaker Mike Busch, (410) 841-3800

The Trust Act has a broad (though sadly not bipartisan) base of co-sponsors in both the House and Senate. Unfortunately, this alone does not guarantee a bill will make it out of committee; that’s up to the committee chairs, who tend to answer to their party leadership. We need everyone to contact the House Speaker and Senate President, listed below, then review the district-level calls to action as well. Calls are preferred over email, but email is preferred over nothing!

General calls to action: call these legislators no matter which district you reside in.

  • Del. Mike Busch, Speaker of House of Delegates (representing Anne Arundel County district 30A). Call (410) 841-3800, or email.
    Ask: Publicly support the Trust Act and ensure it is brought to a floor vote.
  • Sen. Mike Miller, Senate President (representing district 27, Calvert/Charles/Prince George’s County). Call (410) 841-3700, or email.
    Ask: Publicly support the Trust Act and ensure it is brought to a floor vote.

Constituent calls to action: see if your own legislators are co-sponsors of the bill (House co-sponsor list here, Senate here). If they are, thank them! If they aren’t, ask them to support and co-sponsor the bill. In addition, we are asking people to focus efforts on the following legislators; please urge family, friends, and fellow activists living in these districts to call. Continue reading

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Mythbusting Rockville’s Sanctuary Ordinance

As reported earlier this week, Rockville residents and our neighbors throughout Montgomery County (and even further afield) testified at the Mayor and Council meeting on March 6 about a proposed ordinance regarding the role of local police in federal immigration law enforcement. While a majority of the Rockville residents who testified supported the ordinance, including three students from Richard Montgomery High School, a minority opposed. They were joined by a group of Chinese and Chinese Americans organized by the Montgomery County Republic Party, as well as Jonathan Hanen, Eastern Field Representative for Federation for American Immigration Reform, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has identified as a hate group. These folks have been traveling the state to testify against any legislation that, like Rockville’s, seeks to protect the civil rights of otherwise law-abiding undocumented immigrants while preserving public safety for the entire community.  With the help of some of the thoughtful people who testified at the hearing, we’d like to debunk a few of the opposition’s oft-repeated myths.

MYTH: The ordinance reflects a change of policy for the Rockville police

The Rockville Police Department (RPD) and the Montgomery County Police Department (MCPD) have had an unofficial community policing[1] policy for years. The proposed ordinance seeks simply to codify the policy in order to protect the city from overreach by the federal government. As Tom Manger, MCPD’s Chief and President of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, stated in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2015, “To do our job we must have the trust and respect of the communities we serve. We fail if the public fears their police and will not come forward when we need them. Whether we seek to stop child predators, drug dealers, rapists or robbers—we need the full cooperation of victims and witnesses. Cooperation is not forthcoming from persons who see their police as immigration agents. When immigrants come to view their local police and sheriffs with distrust because they fear deportation, it creates conditions that encourage criminals to prey upon victims and witnesses alike.” At the March 6 hearing, Assistant Chief Russ Hamill reaffirmed MCPD’s commitment to this policy.

MYTH: The ordinance will protect immigrants who commit violent crimes

In fact, the RPD policy that the ordinance seeks to codify has the opposite purpose. As Chief Manger explained, community policing is a tried-and-true method to ensure undocumented immigrants are comfortable reporting violent crimes—including violent crimes committed by other undocumented immigrants—without fear of deportation. There are 28 violent crimes the RPD is required to report to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), including child abuse, kidnapping, robbery, rape and murder, and the proposed ordinance does not change that. (See full list in Section IV.D of the MCPD’s policy Dealing with Foreign Nationals.) Several opponents of the ordinance mentioned the recent uptick in gang violence in Montgomery County. Who is most likely to have information that will help police investigate and prosecute a violent crime committed by a member of MS-13, a native-born white American, a legal Chinese immigrant, or an undocumented Central American immigrant?

On a related side note, it was disturbing to hear opponents of the ordinance conflating undocumented immigrants (some used the dehumanizing terms “illegals” and even “invaders”) with criminals. Rockville resident Jim Reschovsky touched on the issue in his moving remarks about his grandmother, whose efforts to immigrate legally from Austria in the years before World War II were thwarted by our country’s policy at the time of turning away Jews. Her son chose to break the law by paying to smuggle her out of Austria, and his grandmother transited illegally through several European countries before reaching the safety of our shores. Had she and her family chosen to wait for a legal option, Jim’s grandmother likely would have perished in a concentration camp.

MYTH: “Sanctuary” cities experience more crime than other cities

While one can find plenty of dubious sources to support this claim, studies from reliable sources, including the Washington Post and NPR, show either no major change in violent crime when a jurisdiction adopts a “sanctuary” policy or a modest decrease. Gaithersburg resident Debbie Chen delved into data on violent crimes and property crimes in Montgomery County using the Maryland Department of Information Technology’s Open Data Portal and found that such crimes are currently at historic lows, including the years since the MCPD and RPD adopted their unofficial community policing policies.


MYTH: The ordinance will result in a major loss of funding for the city

Opponents have raised fears about a loss of federal funding if the city is designated a “sanctuary” by the Trump administration. As its sponsor, Councilmember Julie Palakovich Carr, has pointed out, the proposed ordinance is 100% compliant with federal law. Even if the Trump administration ignored this and attempted to withhold funding to Rockville, the city could sue it for violating the Fifth and Tenth Amendments to the Constitution, as well as under Supreme Court case law regarding the Spending Clause. ICE detainers raise an additional constitutional issue. As the American Immigration Council explains, “[u]nder the Fourth Amendment, a person generally may not be detained without a warrant.  Courts have ruled that states and localities that honor ICE detainers (i.e., ICE requests to hold a person even though they are otherwise eligible for release from criminal custody) may be held liable for Fourth Amendment violations. Several counties have been forced to pay six-figure settlements to individuals as a result of holding them on detainers longer than 48 hours [emphasis added].” On March 3, a Florida judge ruled that Miami-Dade County’s policy of holding undocumented immigrants in jail at the request of the federal government is unconstitutional. Local attorney Kate Perino reminded the Mayor and Council of these potential costs, as well as the likely drain on the city’s coffers if its police force were deputized by ICE, given the agency’s history of failing to reimburse local jurisdictions for resources spent assisting immigration enforcement.

MYTH: Rockville’s immigrant community opposes the ordinance

Numerous immigrants from Rockville testified in support of the ordinance, and others made comments in an online petition, including Dr. Tolulope A. O. Odunlami, who wrote: “Immigrants are the bedrock of Rockville’s economy. The city is an inclusive city, I was born in Africa, came here with my family, I was nominated to serve on the Environment commission 14 years ago, and many other positions that I had the opportunity to serve in the city; now serving as the President of the Lincoln park civic Association. (Only in America and with the love of people in Rockville can my story and experience of my family can be possible.)” In response to testimony by Chinese and Chinese-American residents opposing the ordinance and holding themselves out as examples of legal immigrants, Shua (Jim) Huang, a naturalized U.S. citizen from China and MCCRC member, recalled the lucky break he and many other Chinese immigrants received in 1990s from the first Bush administration following the Tiananmen Square crackdown. Jim described Executive Order 12711 and the Chinese Student Protection Act as a “red carpet” and “a national sanctuary policy” for Chinese immigrants like himself and his family and speculated that compatriots who testified against the ordinance may also have benefited from this policy.

MYTH: Passing the ordinance will do nothing to mitigate the fear gripping Rockville’s immigrant community

Numerous speakers at the hearing who are in daily contact with undocumented immigrants, including a representative of CASA, a professor from Montgomery College, and the pastor of a Rockville church, challenged this myth. Even if it were true, the ordinance is just one of many actions the community is taking to protect our immigrant neighbors from the Trump administration’s hostile executive orders. Established and new local groups, including MCCRC, CASA, Sanctuary DMV, CAIR Coalition, Catholic Charities Immigration Legal Services, United We Dream, MLOV, and others are holding know-your-rights workshops, accompanying immigrants to ICE check-ins, and organizing rapid response teams to document ICE raids and assist families affected by them, in addition to lobbying city, county and state government governments to adopt ordinances like the one proposed in Rockville.

Monday’s Mayor and Council hearing revealed an organized, peripatetic and vocal opposition that relies on myths to advance its anti-immigrant agenda. To protect our immigrant neighbors and ensure the safety of our city, we need Rockville residents, especially members of the immigrant community, to continue to set the record straight and voice their support for the proposed ordinance. Please sustain the momentum this Monday, March 13, by testifying during the Community Forum portion of the Mayor and Council meeting and attending the “drop-in” with Mayor Bridget Newton and Councilmember Mark Pierzchala, or email your testimony to mayorcouncil@rockvillemd.gov.

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[1] This is sometimes called a “sanctuary” policy. See this fact sheet from the American Immigration Council explaining the terms “sanctuary,” “community policing,” and “trust communities.”

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Bystander Intervention Training Materials here!

“Hassle line” at Bystander Intervention Training, Jan 4, Takoma Park

In the wake of the disastrous election of 2016 and the rise of hate crimes and harassment in our community, those of us in the Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition (MCCRC) have provided Bystander Intervention trainings to almost 2,500 activists in Maryland and around the Washington, D.C. metro area in only two months.  We’re proud that this included some 1700 people who were trained on January 20th (Inauguration Day) through Swamp Revolt by 70 trainers we taught, in advance of the Women’s March on Washington on January 21st.

Our Bystander Intervention training was created so that communities could do two things:

  1. To provide a community service that would increase the likelihood that people will step up to support any community member who is being harassed.  We do this by grounding our training in nonviolence, de-escalation, and compassion for others.
  2. To use the trainings to provide a conduit for people to become interested in becoming progressive political activists and to help them find community groups who are doing activist work that challenges systematic injustices.

We have found this model to be very successful for us — and we think it might be useful for other communities as well.  In only a few months, we have doubled our mailing list and now have hundreds of people interested in our general meetings and committee work.

As a civil rights / civil liberties group, we chose to focus on four politically relevant issues:

  • Sanctuary for immigrants
  • Working against Islamophobia
  • Police accountability
  • Stopping surveillance by local, state and national government

These have worked well for us (see our homepage for details), but we believe that bystander trainings can serve to bring new activists into any kind of progressive work. We have developed a variety of materials to help you do Bystander Intervention trainings:

 

The trainings are presented as scripts that anyone can pick up and read to an assembled group. They have been extensively tested, so we can assure you that even though they may seem too wordy, they really do work very well as written. If you’re going to give a training to your group, make sure to read through the Training of Trainers document beforehand.  It contains lots of helpful hints that we have collected over our many trainings!

We wrote these materials based on our experience as activists, organizers, and trainers in nonviolent action.  Although we have received feedback from all of our training groups and dozens of fellow organizers, we welcome any additional suggestions or revisions you might want to share with us as you gain experience in your own communities.

It is our philosophy that our trainings should be given for free, so that as many people as possible can receive the training.

If you are planning on doing a training for personal profit, please do NOT use any of our materials or create your own training based on this one.  It took us an enormous amount of time to write the script, to get real-life experience with thousands of people to see if the training worked, to make revisions, and to prepare the training of trainers.  The materials are protected under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license, so please don’t use us like that, okay?

We would love to know which groups are using our materials, so please give us your group’s name, a contact name, email address and zip code.  We hope to get a map up showing where trainings have happened around the country — and where they will be happening — so that people can find your organization, come to a training and get involved in your work.

http://tinyurl.com/bystander-mccrc

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We stand with our neighbors! Rockville turns out for sanctuary hearing

Richard Montgomery HS students Ameen Elhamdani, Lydia Levy, Isabelle Young before testifying for proposed City of Rockville ordinance 11-3, “Fostering Community Trust.” More photos here.

Scores of  local residents testified about a proposed City of Rockville sanctuary ordinance at Monday night’s Rockville City Council hearing.

While not all speakers favored the ordinance 11-3, “Fostering Community Trust,”  (sponsored by Councilmember Julie Palakovich Carr), a majority did as a supportive audiences watched in multiple overflow rooms.

Video of the evening’s testimony is now available on the Rockville city web site.  Our own videos of testimony (off the TV screen in a viewing room) and interviews outside the hearing room are grouped in the YouTube playlist below.  It includes testimony by Carol Schlenker, two of the Richard Montgomery High School students (Lydia Levy and Isabelle Young), and Sue Udry, as well as interviews with all three students, former Councilmember Tom Moore, Rockville Human Rights Commissioner Ben Shnider, and Montgomery County Councilmember Sidney Katz.

We’re also adding to a  growing collection of written testimony by supporters of the ordinance. Among the many great points they made:

John Appiah-Duffell (MCCRC, Sanctuary Rockville):

I was present at last week’s mayor and council meeting, and we all—every one of us in the room—shared a proud moment recognizing Rockville’s status as the ninth most culturally diverse small city in the US. We applauded! The City of Rockville Twitter account recognized this news with the hashtags #proud and #Diversityisourstrength. I agree. The question for all of us here today is how much that diversity truly matters to us, and whether—when push comes to shove—we’re capable and willing to stand up for our diverse community.

Donald Mewha:

I have three children ranging from 7 to 15 years old who currently attend MCPS.  They have seen the effects of the current immigration policy first hand.  They have seen the look on their friends’ faces when they hear about ICE raids.   The people that the current Executive Order targets aren’t some sort of shadowy ‘other’.  They are the parents of our children.  They are business owners.  They are friends and family members who simply want to go about their lives peacefully.

Tom Moore (former Rockville City Councilmember):

We are a nation of laws, and this is a moment to pass a law. A law that says that the City of Rockville will protect – not punish – those who call upon it for help. A law that tells the terrified children in Rockville that this City will play no part in deporting their parents, no part in destroying their families. A law that best protects City taxpayer funds. A law that says: We stand for all of our families. We stand for all of our children.

Carol Schlenker (MCCRC, Sanctuary Rockville):

Opponents of this ordinance frame as a choice between crime and law-and-order, or pit undocumented immigrants against those who hold legal status. Based on my 7+ years volunteering at FJC, this is not only wrong, it’s dangerous. Our city and county should not discourage undocumented women and men from reporting domestic violence and other violent crimes, for their safety, their children’s, and our entire community’s. Under our current unofficial policy, we don’t have to choose between public safety and protecting the rights of otherwise law-abiding undocumented immigrants. This enlightened, effective, local policy is now under threat, and for that reason I urge the Mayor and Council to protect all peace-loving residents of Rockville and codify it into our City Code.

Rachel Singer:

We as descendents of immigrants are uniquely positioned to provide a safety for those seeking a haven We must not squander this opportunity- let us welcome those who are in need of support- who want to start a new life for themselves and their families.

Sue Udry (MCCRC, BORDC/DDF):

As the City Council considers this ordinance; it is legitimate-to look into possible financial repercussions based on threats made in a January 25 Executive Order to find ways to cut funding from so-called “sanctuary jurisdictions.” It is important to note that many Constitutional scholars have declared that such cuts would be unconstitutional and likely halted by the courts. They argue that trust policies, such as the one the Council is considering tonight, are an exercise of basic state and local powers to regulate for the health, safety and welfare of their residents, and the Trump Administration cannot commandeer the Rockville police to enforce federal immigration policy.

Isabelle Young, Lydia Levy, Ameen Elhamdani (RM Huddle Club, Richard Montgomery HS):

We understand that this ordinance may make some feel a little threatened, but it’s vital to any important decision to separate fact from feelings. According to NPR, “On average, counties that did not comply with ICE requests experienced 35.5 fewer crimes per 10,000 people than those that did.” They also saw a number of additional benefits of adopting policies that protect immigrants, including, “higher household incomes, lower rates of unemployment, [and] lower rates of poverty.”
–Isabelle Young

I cannot begin to imagine the fear that some go through. As students, we should be focusing on education and making our lives better, not live with the constant thought that we might not be in school tomorrow because of being labeled as an illegal immigrant We are all immigrants, except for the native americans .. How can we blame them for attempting at a search for a new and better life? It’s not their fault they are in this situation, they did not ask for it.
Ameen Elhamdani

Rockville is made up of about 45% minorities, while our high school is made up of about 66 percent. That amounts to 1,481 students. In the United States, illegal immigrants make up an estimated 3.5% of our population. Applying this to the Richard Montgomery community, we can estimate that up to 51 students could be illegal immigrants, or children of them. That’s 51 students seeking nothing more than an education. 51 students who have the right to feel safe and accepted in their own school. While this is just an estimate, it addresses an issue that is concrete: students all over our community feel threatened by random police actions-
-Lydia Levy

Click the speaker’s name for the full text of his or her remarks.  While we’ve quoted from all the testimony we have, we’d like to embed the well-researched, heartfelt statements of the three young students from Richard Montgomery High School in full:

For an ongoing list of all testimony forwarded to MCCRC, visit our “Rockville Testimony” collection at scribd.com.

 

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Activists make case for Sanctuary Rockville ordinance at Monday hearing; vote next Monday

Rockville has taken the first step towards codifying its unofficial policy limiting the role of city police and staff in cooperating with federal authorities to enforce immigration law,[1] and MCCRC was there to voice support.

At the Mayor and Council Meeting on February 27, Councilmember Julie Palakovich Carr introduced an ordinance to enshrine the unofficial policy of the Rockville Police Department into the City Code to protect and foster trust between law enforcement and the immigrant community. Noting that the ordinance is 100% compliant with federal law and provides no sanctuary to those who commit violent crimes, Councilmember Palakovich Carr offered several reasons for its introduction: ensuring community safety by preserving the good relationship between the police and residents; guaranteeing equal protection to residents, regardless of their immigration status; resisting an unfunded federal mandate; and, refreshingly, “I just think it’s the right thing to do.”

Carol Schlenker testifies for a Rockville city sanctuary ordinance.

Carol Schlenker testifies for a Rockville city sanctuary ordinance. Video of the hearing is available here.

Citizen testimony

Three Rockville citizens testified about the ordinance during the Community Forum portion of the meeting. Christy Shannon, creator of the Sanctuary Rockville Facebook page, compared the relationship between the police and the community to her relationship with high-risk students, including many immigrants, as a former public high school math teacher. “Teachers and police share a common problem: We’re trying to get everyone to do the right thing and we’re completely outnumbered,” Shannon said, describing how a culture of discipline and trust resulted in classroom safety and student success. “When you’re outnumbered, you must have the community on your side. Love and community are risky, but they’re worth it.” Colleen Reed, a Twinbrook Elementary School PTA member and employee of a local foundation that funds Montgomery Cares safety-net clinics, testified about the fear and anxiety in the immigrant community: students so worried that they or their loved ones will be deported that their health and school performance are suffering, adults so terrified to leave their houses that they’re willing to forego needed medical care. MCCRC’s Carol Schlenker, an immigration paralegal, testified that recent executive orders have caused panic among all immigrants, documented and undocumented, and confusion for the legal professionals who advise them. She cited the alarming uptick in anti-immigrant violence across the country, even within Montgomery County, as a reason Councilmember Palakovich Carr’s proposal should be offered as an ordinance rather than a less robust resolution or policy. (See full remarks below.)

Council reactions

Most of the Council appeared to favor the proposal. Councilmember Mark Pierzchala is perhaps the strongest supporter after Councilmember Palakovich Carr. He agreed that an ordinance would be more effective than a resolution or policy in achieving much-needed legal clarity. Councilmember Virginia Onley, although not stating a position on whether the proposal should be passed as an ordinance, supported its intent to ensure that all residents feel welcomed, wanted and safe in the diverse city. Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton expressed support for the city’s policy restricting the police from asking residents about their immigration status, but asked Acting Police Chief Bob Rappoport to clarify how his officers are able to identify immigrants who have committed violent crimes without expressly asking the question. (Answer: When Rockville City Police stop a resident for probable cause, they run a background check. If the results show only a civil Immigration and Customs Enforcement [ICE] warrant, they will let the resident go. If it’s a criminal ICE warrant, the resident is arrested.)

Beryl Feinberg is the Councilmember who voiced the most reservations about the ordinance. While she concurred that the country has entered a regrettable era of hatred and polarization — comparing it to the Crusades, the Inquisition, World War II, and apartheid — she stated that the Mayor and Council should weigh the opinions of all residents and business owners, including those who oppose the ordinance, and also consider the financial impact to the city if the federal government designates Rockville a “sanctuary city” and opts to withhold funding. She also stated her belief that the ordinance would do nothing to mitigate the fear gripping the immigrant community. Councilmember Pierzchala, a Peace Corps volunteer in Swaziland during the waning days of apartheid, gave a moving response to these comments. He recalled visiting South Africa five or six times and observing that “[i]t wasn’t just the brutality. It was the denigration of humanity. Every little law in South Africa was an opportunity to trip someone up. Any little thing you did wrong could land you in jail or get you killed. Councilmember Feinberg is correct that it will not stop the fear. It will not stop ICE from coming into the city or the county. What it  will do is address how we police and how our city staff operate. And if we do nothing other than have a clear law that says this is not going to be one of those trip-up jurisdictions where you do 14 miles over the speed limit rather than 12 – I think that’s very important.”

What’s next
If you agree that it’s very important, especially if you live in the City of Rockville, please take the following actions:

  • Sign Sanctuary Rockville’s petition and be aware of the arguments in the counter-petition.
  • Educate yourself. Rockville city staff compiled some useful resources here for the Mayor and Council. On the federal funding issue, Congressional Research Service recently published this helpful legal sidebar: Plan to Restrict Federal Grants to “Sanctuary Jurisdictions” Raises Legal Questions.
  • Join us to testify on the merits of the ordinance at the next Mayor and Council Meeting this Monday, March 6, at Rockville City Hall, 111 Maryland Avenue in Rockville. The Community Forum is scheduled to begin at 6:45 pm. People who wish to speak at the hearing are strongly encouraged to sign up in advance by calling the City Clerk’s office at 240-314-8280 or emailing cityclerk@rockvillemd.gov. Please limit your testimony to 3 minutes or less. For those who wish to testify in Spanish, an interpreter will be available. If you can’t appear in person, you may email written testimony to cityclerk@rockvillemd.gov.
  • Spread the word! Let people know about the ordinance and the opportunity to testify. Here is a simple flyer to distribute in your neighborhood or post in local businesses, libraries and community centers.

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[1] Laws, policies, or resolutions like this are sometimes referred to as “sanctuary” policies, although no legal or standard definition of the term exists. See this fact sheet from the American Immigration Council about “sanctuary” jurisdictions.

Carol Schlenker testimony

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MCCRC lobbies Annapolis for “3 S’s” – sanctuary, SWAT reform, Stingray regulation

Noche de los Inmigrantes/Immigrant Lobby Night rally crowd outside Maryland State House. More photos here.

MCCRC’s Sue Udry and Thomas Nephew joined scores of activists participating in CASA’s Immigrant Lobby Night on Monday evening.

Sanctuary
Our number one priority was asking our respective delegations (Districts 18, 20) to support the Maryland TRUST Act (HB1362/SB0835) —  legislation that would essentially take every police force and agency in the state off the table in helping enforce federal immigration law.

The effort was particularly important after Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett’s disappointing (and unconvincingly explained*) choice not to support the bill.  Among our points — submitted as written testimony to the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee:

… The current federal government has indicated that it will be pursuing an agenda ratcheting up deportations and making America in general more hostile to immigrants.  …These policies are directly contrary to the democratic aspirations of Marylanders… [who] supported a ballot initiative granting certain undocumented immigrants in-state tuition and state financial aid.  Maryland also allows undocumented immigrants to acquire state driver’s licenses. […]

In addition to upholding the values of Maryland, HB1362 would make Maryland more respective of civil liberties… For example it would prohibit Maryland from making an arrest on the basis of a civil immigration warrant. Civil immigration warrants do not contain the signature of a neutral magistrate and thus violate the Fourth Amendment….Furthermor, by prohibiting law enforcement from conducting a stop, arrest, search, or detention to investigate a suspected civil immigration violation or inquire about citizenship, the bill would defend Marylanders from discriminatory profiling.

The full text of our testimony is embedded at the end of this post.

Sue Udry (BORDC/DDF, MCCRC) and Mark X, chief of staff for Senator Lee - a co-sponsor of HB1362.

Sue Udry (BORDC/DDF, MCCRC) and chief of staff for Senator Susan Lee’s chief of staff Michael Lore.  Senator Lee is a co-sponsor of the Maryland TRUST Act.

SWAT reform
We also explained our position on SWAT reform bills HB0739/SB0941 : training and policy standards are fine, but ongoing data collection is needed to confirm those standards are working — to Montgomery County delegates and senators on the Judiciary or Judicial Proceedings committee including Del.Pam Queen (D-14) and Senator Susan Lee (D-16).

We learned that the outlook for robust data collection and reporting those data to the public remains bleak, but that Delegate Moon and Senator Smith are working hard to preserve some form of public access to SWAT deployment data.

Stingray surveillance reform
Finally, we discussed the “Stingray” bill HB0917/SB0878 —  sponsored by Delegate Charles Sydnor (D-44B) in the House and Senator Delores Kelley in the Senate — that would require police to obtain a warrant for the use of “stingray” cell phone tower emulators, which can be deployed in vans or aircraft and can sweep up all cell phone traffic within range — alleged criminal suspects and innocent public alike.

wp-1488262516776.jpg

StingRay cell phone tower emulator

MCCRC’s Suraj Sazawal submitted written testimony to the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee pointing out that…

Despite its proliferation, very little is known about when and how the technology is being deployed. Non-disclosure agreements signed between police departments and the device’s manufacturers often prevent critical information, including details about the sale, the price, and the source of the funds for the purchase, from reaching the public. […] The bill takes the common sense step of requiring that police obtain a warrant in order to to access the data  produced by or contained in cell phones. This will protect the digital privacy rights of Marylanders without unduly burdening law enforcement.

We hope to have more on this soon.  Meanwhile, we’re proud to have worked to “Restore the 4th” by advocating the Sydnor/Kelley Stingray bill.

Testimony for HB1362, Maryland TRUST Act


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* Leggett seems to ignore the needs of Maryland residents outside the “major jurisdictions” like Montgomery County that have similar non-immigration enforcement policies in place.  He also illogically calls the TRUST Act “symbolic” when it protects more Marylanders with a stronger guarantee (as a statute) than a reversible police department or executive policy. Finally, he expresses concern that the legislation would risk putting Montgomery County at risk of immigration enforcement raids.  But the county’s residents are *already* in the Trump administration’s crosshairs whether or not we use the magic word “sanctuary” or “TRUST” to describe our policies. ICE raids will happen here whether or not the TRUST Act is passed, and whether or not Trump smiles briefly at Leggett’s naivete before ordering them.

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MCCRC delegation visits Muslim Community Center & Clinic

There’s a jewel of community medicine right here in our county: the Muslim Community Center (MCC) Clinic — the largest multi-function, faith-based, safety net clinic in the country.

MCCRC delegation and our Muslim Community Center hosts. L.to.r.: Thomas, Judy, Joleen, Dr. Rashid Chotani (exec.director MCCC), Mark, Tasnuva Khan (MCC), Susan.

Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition delegation and our Muslim Community Center hosts. L.to.r.: Thomas, Judy, Joleen, Dr. Rashid Chotani (exec.director MCC Clinic), Mark, Tasnuva Khan (MCC), Susan.

On Monday, a delegation of Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition supporters from our Islamophobia committee had the opportunity to tour that clinic and the rest of the community center.  Our goal: to learn more about this great community resource hosted by the one of the pillars of the Montgomery County Muslim community, and share that with our supporters and the rest of the county.

We were met outside the clinic by the MCC public relations committee’s PR committee leader Tasnuva Khan and the clinic’s executive director Dr. Rashid Chotani, M.D.  Dr. Chotani’s CV includes work at Johns Hopkins University and the U.S. Defense Department; now he’s a tireless advocate, fundraiser, and grant proposal writer for the clinic, in addition to his physician’s duties.    He was also a wonderfully friendly, enthusiastic, and informative host; we all thank him and Ms. Khan for spending so much time with us!

Stepping inside, we found a sparkling, handsome, modern waiting room, as nice as any I’ve ever waited my turn for a doctor’s visit in.  The clinic boasts an online patient registration system for use at home or in the waiting room — and also has a dedicated kiosk set aside to help patients to enroll in “Obamacare” if eligible.

Cardiology room and EKG unit.

Cardiology room and EKG unit.

Starting with 53 patients in 2003, the Muslim Community Center Clinic served over 16,000 patients in 2016.  In case you were wondering, over half of both the staff and their patients served are non-Muslim. Dr. Chotani had a nice story to tell about a patient who came back to thank him and the clinic for their excellent services, closing, “And you know, I’m not even Muslim.”  Dr. Chotani says he replied, “You know what? Neither of your doctors were either: one is Orthodox Christian, the other is Buddhist. ”

Dentist's chair

Dentist’s chair

The Muslim Community Center Clinic is a true community clinic, run with the help of grants, congregation donations, county and state subsidies, in-kind donations, and affordable patient payments. Dr. Chotani hopes to add a senior center and urgent care center in the years to come. Patients eligible for Montgomery Cares (adult residents of the county, no health insurance, low income) pay $25 per visit, others pay $50 or what their participating insurance plan supports.  (The clinic does not refuse service to those unable to pay these fees which are covered by special charitable zakat or sadaqah donations)

The clinic offers a wide range of medical services including specialty services like optometry, dermatology, cardiology, oncology and more as well as social and preventive services including mental and colorectal health services, domestic violence programs/referrals, and patient referrals to other low-cost health providers when necessary. There’s even a courtesy shuttle to and from public transportation hubs in the area.  Reflecting the diversity of Montgomery County — we met patients of West African and Panamanian origin during our short visit — the clinic has staff who can communicate in several languages, such as Urdu, Punjabi, Arabic, Amharic, Spanish, Kashmiri, and Bangla.  (Plus French, as Dr. Chotani demonstrated in talking with the West African patient.  The clinic relies on help from the Montgomery County Language Bank when other translators are needed.)

Clinic founder Dr. Asif Qadri. The words on the painting are

Clinic founder Dr. Asif Qadri. The words on the painting are “And when I am ill it is He who cures me. {Al-Quran 26:80}

We were also lucky enough to meet the founder of the clinic, Dr. Asif Qadri.  A cardiologist by specialty, he had been going over a patient’s EKG chart with a medical student from G.W. University who was completing some of her medical curriculum by being on the clinic’s staff for several months.  We also met University of Maryland students who were collecting health survey data from participating patients.

Seeing these students helped drive home both another way in which the clinic serves the community — and one secret of the Muslim Community Center Clinic’s success: its founder, executive director, and supporters have been great organizers, coalition builders, and Primary Care Coalition participants, embedding the clinic in a supporting network of teaching schools, state and local agencies, and supportive for-profit businesses.

But underlying it all is the generosity, charity, and faith of the Muslim community at MCC — which also operates a food pantry, library, and an impressive Sunday school including Arabic language instruction.  The clinic operates rent-free on MCC premises, and there’s a designated sadaqah donations “mailbox” just inside the main entrance that several of us added our own donations to on our way out.  We — and the county — are lucky to have such good neighbors.

Thank you, Muslim Community Center and congregation, and thank you to all who work at the clinic.

 

 

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Meaningful SWAT reform at risk in Annapolis — here’s how to help

Action alert: Help enact meaningful SWAT reform in Maryland!

  1. Visit this state web site: SWAT Team Reporting – SB 447. Then click and download the last SWAT statistical report to be issued, FY 2014 SWAT Data Report.(Please do both.) Believe it or not, this matters: police and politicians are claiming no one is interested, so let’s prove them wrong. 
  2. Call these four House Judiciary committee members now–and again first thing on Monday when office staff will have to take your call– and tell them you want meaningful SWAT reform via Delegate David Moon’s bill HB0739, meaning uniform training and deployment standards and data collection to prove those standards are working:
    • 301-858-3052, Kathleen Dumais (Vice chair; Montg.County, D15)
    • 301-858-3488, Joseph Vallario (Chair; P.G. County, D23B)
    • 410-841-3291, Curt Anderson (Deputy Majority Whip; Baltimore, D43)
    •  301-858-3380, Pam Queen (Montg. County, D14 — the third Montg.County member of the committee besides Dumais and Moon)
  3. Email bill sponsors Delegate David Moon and Senator Will Smith with a message of appreciation for their work on HB0739 and SB0941, the crossfiled bills that could make Maryland a leader again in reining in the rampant overuse of SWAT teams.
SWAT team. (Via

SWAT team. (Via “Will the Growing Militarization of Our Police Doom Community Policing?, cops.usdoj.gov, Community Policing Dispatch)

Background

I went to Annapolis on Tuesday to participate in the Judiciary Committee hearing for HB0739 (fiscal note) — a bill sponsored by Delegate David Moon that, in its current form, calls for…

  1. development of standards about training and deployment of SWAT teams by the Maryland Police Training and Standards Commission (MPTSC), and…
  2. data collection about SWAT team deployments by every police department on the frequency, location, reasons or warrants for SWAT team deployments, and outcomes of those deployments including arrests, injuries or deaths, property seizures, forcible entries and weapons discharges as well as the age, gender, and race of persons encountered, and the reporting of these data by the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention (GOCCP).

The data collection half of the bill would simply return the state to its leadership years of 2010-2014 when Maryland collected just such data, prompted by a notorious botched SWAT raid of a house belonging to the mayor of Berwyn Heights, Maryland, resulting in him kneeling in his boxers next to his two dead dogs and terrified mother-in-law.

It’s hard to know where to start with a critique of the SWAT culture permeating our country’s and state’s police forces. Maybe here: we were getting along just just fine without any SWAT teams whatsoever, until the 1965 Watts riots prompted LA Police Chief Darryl Gates not to, say, rethink police practices, but to double down with counterinsurgency warfare tactics being honed in the Vietnam War.*

Our nation’s police forces have been at war with us — well, mainly with some of us — ever since. As the ACLU’s fine 2014 report and police department survey “War Comes Home” showed , about 5 out of every 7 persons of known race** affected by a SWAT raid were persons of color. Moreover, over two thirds (68 percent) of those deployments were merely for drug searches — not hostage situations or barricaded bad guys. Only about one third (38 percent) were mere drug searches when white people were impacted.

Prepared with those facts, and knowing that this year’s bill was essentially a carbon copy of last year’s version, HB521, that passed out of committee by a 15-4 margin, I was hopeful that the hearing would go well. But when I arrived in Annapolis, Delegate Moon warned it might not, and that it was the reporting requirements that might not survive the committee’s deliberations.

The hearing

House Judiciary Committee hearing room, Annapolis

The full hearing that day had a total of 16 bills to hear testimony about — and as bad luck would have it, HB739 would turn out to be the 15th to be considered.  So despite beginning at 1pm, it wasn’t until around 10pm(!) that I could finally join Delegate Moon, Maryland Libertarian Party’s Eric Blitz, and ACLU Maryland’s Toni Holness at the panelist table to testify for HB739. Video of our part of the hearing can be seen here. Copies of both my own written testimony and that of Takoma Park resident, TPMobilization supporter… and ex-New York State prosecutor Eli Koppel are embedded at the end of this post.

Continue reading

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Muslim Community Center Town Hall speakers report on #MuslimBan executive order, offer toolkit to resist

Khaled Beydoun (l.), Abed Ayoub (r.), American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, field questions from MCC audience.

An emergency town hall convened at the Muslim Community Center this Sunday at noon gave two speakers — Abed Ayoub of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), and Khaled Bhartoum, a law professor at  University of Detroit Mercy School of Law — a chance to explain the details of the outrageous anti-Muslim executive order published on Friday afternoon, and share advice about next steps with the largely American Muslim audience in attendance.

As is well known from the news, the executive order indefinitely barred Syrian refugees from entering the United States, suspended all refugee admissions for 120 days and blocked citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries, refugees or otherwise, from entering the United States for 90 days: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen(New York Times). The ban includes dual nationals who have, e.g., an E.U. passport.

Questions and answers were extensive.  The key advice was that persons without U.S. citizenship and with passports from any of the listed countries should forego travel out of the U.S. in the next 90 days, or risk not being able to return.   Among the other answers:

  • Q: Should legal permanent residents (LPRs, a.k.a. “green card” holders) apply for citizenship?
    A: Yes – but not without advice from counsel, especially if they have even minor blemishes on their record.
  • Q: How can non-Muslim allies help?
    A: Support ADC and CAIR and other Muslim advocacy groups financially; visit Muslim Student Associations and other Muslim organizations and congregations, especially where they may feel isolated; and urge Congressmembers to stand against the ban.

Mr. Beydoun also remarked that American Muslims will need to “think of ourselves in very broad terms” and reach out to and support other communities likely to be targeted next, e.g., Latino and African Americans.

Perhaps the best summary of what Mr. Ayoub and Mr. Bhartoum were saying about the legal situation can be found in the ADC Immigrant and Muslim Ban ToolKit, linked from the ADC web site. The one pageA BREAKDOWN OF THE “MUSLIM BAN” – AN ADVOCACY TOOL FOR IMPACTED COMMUNITIES” is especially important and can be seen here:

Other points made during their discussion and the Q&A:

  • Different airport TSA’s may be interpreting the order differently; also the stays issued by the New York and Virginia judges are differently worded and specific.
  • Legal permanent residents (aka LPRs, aka “green card” holders) from other likely target countries who are overseas should accelerate their returns ‘before he tweets again.’
  • The notorious “religious minority” exception applies ‘only’ to refugee policy, not travel policy.
  • The ACLU win over the weekend (resulting in the New York stay) only got people out of detention here in the U.S. who were en route when the order was given; it did not resolve the limbo overseas travellers are in.

As the speakers explained, there was more that was bad about the executive order than made the headlines. In an executive order that’s ugly to begin with, one of the less noticed yet ugliest features requires the Department of Homeland Security to publish biannual counts of foreign nationals involved in crimes, ‘radicalizations’, material support to ‘terrorism-related’ organization deemed hostile to the U.S., gender-based violence, and ‘honor killings’ — the kind of official “enemy ‘other’ scorecard” last seen in Nazi Germany.

It also requires that entry applicants submit to an interview where their religious views are probed — blatantly discriminatory since ‘religious minorities’ from the listed countries are excluded, and blatantly unconstitutional since the interview questions reported so far amount to a religious test for entry to the U.S. (“How often do you pray?” etc.)  Mr. Beydoun advised sticking to “vague, general statements” to the effect that “the First Amendment guarantees me the right to the free exercise of my religion.” Continue reading

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Activist gets Rockville PD complaint form corrected

John Appiah-Duffell addresses Rockville City Council about police department complaint form issue

John Appiah-Duffell addresses Rockville City Council about police department complaint form issue. Video here.

After reading our report about police department transparency compliance failures in Montgomery County, activist John Appiah-Duffell decided it might as well be him to challenge the City of Rockville about its police department’s own failure.  The Rockville PD had not got a key fact on its brutality complaint form right: they listed the deadline to file as 90 days, when the correct deadline is 366 day.

So on Monday evening, that’s what he did.  Here are some excerpts from his brief comments, which can be read in full here:

If you venture down the rabbit hole of the “general orders” section of the Rockville police department website, you will find that the correct timeframe of 366 days is listed. However, the actual form required to file a complaint, which is offered for download on the “Forms and Requests” page, contains the following instruction—and I’ll hand copies out to you in a moment—“If you are filing a brutality complaint, state law requires that your complaint MUST be sworn to and filed within 90 days of the alleged incident.” This is not only false, but even if unintentional, it is an illegal deterrent to complaints, and it needs to be corrected. The transparency law went into effect on October 1 of last year–114 days ago. It is conceivable that someone sought to exercise their legal right of complaint in the past 114 days and was given the false impression that their complaint was invalid. […]

I just want to say that accountability and oversight are good things. They are not a sign of mistrust, but on the contrary, are an essential part of ensuring the public’s trust is earned. Again, this is current state law, and I just ask that my mayor and council exercise their responsibility of oversight to ensure the Rockville Police department is in compliance with the law. Thank you so much for your time.

Both councilmembers and (later) the police chief thanked him for his comments, and, more to the point, the form has now been corrected.

The police chief explained that while paper copies of the form were correct, the change had not been made to the online version of the form. Mr. Appiah-Duffell also relayed the news that Rockville PD in fact has no bargaining agreement — so there’s nothing to report.  We will correct both items, and will also check whether this is the case for Chevy Chase, Gaithersburg, and other cities where we failed to find a posted agreement.

Thank you John!!!  And great work!!! This was fine activism and an excellent public comment — succinct, well-researched, reasonable, respectful — but utterly insistent.  We hope other citizens of Montgomery County and P.G. County will take a page from John and challenge their own city councils and police departments when they’ve fallen short.  You might well be pleasantly surprised how much your comments will matter.

 

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