January 4, 2021, Annapolis, MD – With a membership of 100,000 lifetime members, immigrant and working family advocacy group CASA announces a robust agenda for the 2021 Maryland legislative session. The largest immigrant rights organization in the Mid-Atlantic region will advocate for a number of critical bills, including legislation to limit the state’s partnership with national efforts to enforce federal immigration laws and legislation that will implement emergency COVID protections for renters and essential workers. CASA members will engage legislators through “Semana del Inmigrante” – Immigrant Lobby Week – a virtual weeklong legislator engagement event where CASA Members share their personal stories.
“Now more than ever, we need strong leadership in the General Assembly to tackle the complex problems that the COVID-19 pandemic has presented to Maryland’s most vulnerable families,” said Cathryn Paul, CASA Research and Policy Analyst. “Immigrants have been serving on the frontlines, holding up our society and economy with little in return. We owe them the dignity, recognition, and protection that these bills offer.”
CASA Member Claudia was rear-ended, and when the police arrived to file a collision report for the crash, they instead held her for ICE to begin deportation proceedings. Claudia shares: “I thought the police would help me, but they didn’t. I wouldn’t want others in the community to be scared of calling the police. I hate to think if the worst happens to me, but I have to plan for it because I would be separated from my three kids. That’s why we need the Maryland Trust Act: so no one else goes through what I am living right now.”
CASA 2021 Maryland Legislative Priorities
Maryland Trust Act (SB88/HB304): The Trust Act is legislation that will increase the safety of Maryland families by improving community relationships with law enforcement and other state entities through limiting the state’s partnership with national efforts to enforce federal immigration laws. The Trust Act would allow for vulnerable immigrants to be more willing to report crimes, use available health and social services for their families, and enroll their children in school.
Driver Privacy Act (SB234/HB23): In 2013, the Maryland legislature extended driving privileges to every qualified person regardless of immigration status. The intention of the legislation was to ensure that everyone who needs to drive, can do so in a legal and regulated way – so that no one would end up in immigration court because they were forced to drive without a license. Since then, several organizations have discovered rampant data sharing between the MVA and ICE. ICE is using the MVA database to target and deport immigrant families in Maryland, and it must end now.
Dignity Not Detention Act (HB16): Over the past several years, ICE has been actively planning to build a new detention facility in Maryland – most recently near Baltimore County and now, Queen Anne’s County. A new private facility would be detrimental to our communities, leading to the increased detention of Marylanders. ICE already has three immigration detention agreements with local jails to detain immigrants. This bill would end those contracts and keep ICE detention out of Maryland.
Universal Representation (SB317): Hundreds of immigrants in Maryland are detained in local jails through immigration detention agreements that ICE has with certain counties, and when facing deportation, they do not have a right to a lawyer. We must ensure that all Marylanders who are in detention and facing deportation have access to justice in the form of zealous legal counsel to represent them in removal proceedings.
Emergency Pandemic Relief and Protections: Immigrant families, especially undocumented families, have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. Despite working on the front lines in healthcare and other crucial service industries, they continue to be excluded from state unemployment, state healthcare, and the federal CARES Act. The legislation that addresses immediate pandemic relief includes: (1) COVID-19 Eviction and Housing Relief Act; (2) Maryland Essential Workers Protection Act; and (3) Direct Cash Relief to Impacted Families.
Meaningful Police Reform: Black and brown people in Maryland continue to be brutalized, harassed, mistreated – and murdered by the police, without any justice or accountability. As a member of the Maryland Coalition for Justice and Police Accountability, CASA is fighting to completely reimagine the role, presence and responsibilities of police in Maryland. CASA supports (1) Anton’s Law (HB120/SB178); (2) Local Control of Baltimore City Police; and (3) Repeal of the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (LEOBR).
Tenants’ Rights: In addition to emergency protections, a variety of long term legislative reforms are needed to address the ongoing housing crisis that tenants have faced long before pandemic. As a member of Renters United Maryland, CASA is fighting to completely overhaul the eviction process and achieve affordable housing for all. CASA supports (1) Right to Counsel and (2) Just Cause Eviction.
Flower Branch Act: In 2016, our community suffered tremendously when an explosion at the Flower Branch Apartments in Silver Spring killed seven people, injured approx. 70 other residents, including many CASA members. The National Transportation Safety Board made several recommendations after investigating the explosion including installation of new service regulators outside of structures and the relocation of inside structures to outside. This bill takes a step toward preventing a crisis like this again, by implementing this critical recommendation.
Blueprint for Maryland’s Future: Override the Blueprint: In the 2020 legislative session, the Maryland General Assembly passed the landmark Blueprint for Maryland’s Future. The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future transforms both our school funding formula and the operation of our schools to ensure more equitable education across the state. CASA, as part of the Maryland Alliance for Racial Equity in Education, a coalition of black and brown organizations pursuing racial equity in our school system worked tirelessly to support the passage of this bill that includes policy and funding that would improve public education for the most vulnerable. The bill was vetoed by the Governor in May, and CASA adamantly supports the override of the veto, along with all accompanying funding bills.
Healthcare for All: Healthcare is a human right. In Maryland, approximately 6% of the population is uninsured, including the estimated 275K Maryland residents who are ineligible for public health insurance due to their immigration status. Long before the COVID-19 pandemic, gaps in healthcare coverage due to unaffordability or inaccessibility have left masses of people unable to get basic coverage. CASA is working with the Georgetown University Law Center to explore potential policy options to extend essential healthcare services to all Marylanders, including those currently ineligible for other programs.
With over 100,000 members across the states of Maryland, Virginia, and South Central Pennsylvania, CASA is the largest member-based Latino and immigrant organization in the mid-Atlantic region. Visit us at www.wearecasa.org and follow us on Twitter at @CASAforall