Municipal leaders in Prince George's County will vote on a resolution that calls on Congress to protect the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and Temporary Protected Status programs following the Trump administration's "radical increase of anti-immigration enforcement," according to the resolution.
The Prince George's County Municipal Association, made up of various city officials that represents 27 county municipalities, will vote on the resolution on Oct. 19 in Laurel.
"It's time that we, as city councils across Prince George's County, take a strong stance against this idea that we're just going to begin deporting, en masse, the members of our communities who are immigrants and who were promised sanctuary and security by the federal government," said Joseph Solomon, president of the association and a Hyattsville councilman.
DACA is an Obama-era administrative program that allows undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children and meet certain guidelines to stay in the country in two-year blocks. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the ending of DACA Sept. 5, but gave Congress a six-month window to pass alternative legislation.
The Immigration Act of 1990 created TPS, lawful immigration status granted by the Department of Homeland Security to natives of countries that experience environmental disasters, ongoing armed conflict or an epidemic, among other "extraordinary and temporary conditions," according to the DHS website. In the coming months, the DHS will decide whether to extend TPS to other countries.
Several municipalities throughout the county, such as Hyattsville and Mount Rainier, have passed noncitizen voting laws in an effort to support local immigrant communities, and Solomon said he wants the association to "go beyond" these measures. Some of these extra protections could include more noncitizen voting laws and more sanctuary cities, Solomon said. Additionally, the resolution proposes support for a permanent pathway to citizenship for immigrants.
The College Park City Council voted 4-3, with one abstention, in favor of granting non-U.S. citizens municipal voting rights last month, but the amendment never passed because the council failed to meet the six vote majority requirement that was added to the city's charter in June.
If the resolution passes, the association will hold discussions with DHS officials and put letters on the desks of Maryland's congressmen, including Democratic lawmakers Rep. Steny Hoyer, Rep. Anthony Brown, Sen. Chris Van Hollen and Sen. Ben Cardin, Solomon said.
"The decision continues to echo the racist dog whistle that Trump is sending not just to immigrant communities, but to communities of color across the country, and we're going to do everything we can to fight this," Solomon said.
Maryland has more than 9,000 residents eligible for DACA. According to the Center for Migration Studies, Maryland has 22,500 TPS holders. About 11.7 percent of College Park's residents are not U.S. citizens, according to Census Bureau data.
The town of Morningside, which had 2,015 residents as of the 2010 U.S. Census, favors the resolution because Trump's decision disrupts the town's immigrant population and county community at large, said Mayor Bennard Cann.
"I would easily say immigrants are about 3 percent to 7 percent of our population [and] would be directly impacted by this," Cann said. "But when you're talking 3 to 7 percent of a small town, it's significant and it will affect not just your community, but the attitude of your community as it relates to the government."
The association will work with NAACP Prince George's County and CASA de Maryland, organizations that have both filed lawsuits against the Trump administration due to its decision to end DACA.
NAACP Prince George's County President Bob Ross said he is willing to work with the association, adding that support may come in the forms of demonstrations and community organizing.
"It's not a Hispanic community, and it's not a black community; it's a community of people," Ross said. "[DACA participants] came here for no reason of their own and it's really the only home they know."
CASA de Maryland will hold rallies and marches, go to courts and put pressure on Congress alongside the association, said Rommel Sandino, a lead CASA de Maryland community organizer.
"Instead of deporting, the government should be figuring out a way to pass legislation that includes a permanent pathway to citizenship to these community members," Sandino said. "There should be not a dollar more invested into boots on the ground for agents at detention centers to deport our immigrant brothers and sisters."
Sandino said a roadblock the association may confront is that many people, even elected officials, are unfamiliar with TPS.
"We had an action when we visited and took over more than 55 congressional offices in, and we lifted up stories of DACA and TPS holders," Sandino said. "The majority of the congressional staff and elected officials that we spoke with knew about DACA, but a good number of them weren't aware of TPS."
The idea that immigrants do not contribute to society is a problem that needs to be addressed to successfully execute the goals of the resolution, Solomon said, adding that many DACA recipients and TPS holders work, pay taxes and pursue educational opportunities.
"We need to unwrap the stigma surrounding immigrants and put a face to some of these individuals that they plan on deporting," Solomon said. "They need to know these are members of your community that you see in the grocery store every day or that you send your kids to school with every day."