The Future of Maryland Law Enforcement’s Cooperation with ICE and its Impact on Domestic Violence Among Undocumented Women

*Felicia Rugh

I. Introduction

This year, a number of bills were introduced in Maryland’s House and Senate that addressed immigration and how local law enforcement would handle cooperation with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.[1]  The purpose of these bills is to make Maryland a safer place for the immigrant community and to build trust between these communities and local law enforcement.[2]  One of these bills, House Bill 304—also known as the Trust Act—would prohibit local law enforcement from inquiring about an individual’s immigration status during a stop, search or arrest, and also prohibit local law enforcement from cooperating with ICE agents unless there is a judicial warrant against the individual.[3]  Another piece of legislation, House Bill 16, also known as the Dignity Not Detention Act, would end local contracts with ICE and prohibit local law enforcement from detaining individuals based solely on federal civil immigration violations under those contracts.[4]

Although House Bill 304 and House Bill 16 have not yet been passed, their introduction and the discourse surrounding them can make a monumental impact on the safety and overall quality of life of innocent immigrants,[5] who have grown more fearful from the increasingly stringent immigration policy in the U.S.[6]  Even though many of these immigration bills have yet to pass one or both chambers,[7] there are discussions beginning at the county and city level which indicate that these bills may pass sooner rather than later.[8]

If this change is to occur, many immigrant communities in Maryland may become less fearful of local law enforcement and more open to seeking them out when they are victims of a crime.[9]  In particular, undocumented women who are victims of domestic violence may be more comfortable seeking help from Maryland law enforcement if these bills are passed.[10]

II. Federal Immigration Policy and the Fear it Incites

Since 2002, deportations of undocumented immigrants have steadily increased.[11]  In more recent years, arguably more barbaric immigration policies have been enforced due to the increase in collateral arrests of undocumented persons.[12]  Raids—which are “‘a cruel tactic aimed at stoking fear’”[13] in which hundreds of immigrant workers are detained by ICE—have been sweeping over the United States, leaving many to condemn them as a “‘gross display of humanity.’”[14]  Some of these roundups reportedly took place in Baltimore.[15]  In addition to raids where there are specific targets in mind, the total amount of collateral arrests is increasing as well.[16]  “Collaterals” are detained immigrants who were never the targets of ICE raids, but were arrested anyway because they were in close proximity to the actual targets.[17]  Collaterals are those undocumented persons who were in the wrong place at the wrong time.[18] 

These federal immigration policies strike fear in immigrant communities and make them less likely to seek help from and cooperate with local law enforcement.[19]  When told that local law enforcement works with ICE to enforce federal immigration law—which includes the detainment of collaterals who have not broken the law—undocumented immigrants are 60.8 percent less likely to report witnessing a crime and 42.9 percent “less likely to report a crime that they were a victim of.”[20]  This can lead to a sense of isolation in immigrant communities which can increase the risk of their victimization.[21]

III. Domestic Violence in Immigrant Communities

Although women from all walks of life can be victims of domestic violence, “undocumented immigrant women are amidst the most vulnerable.”[22]  There are a number of factors that lead to the victimization of undocumented women, but a lack of reporting for fear of deportation is at the forefront.[23]  Strict immigration laws have been shown to have unintended consequences that disproportionately harm battered women.[24]  Such laws weaken undocumented women’s trust and promote fear in local law enforcement.[25]  In Texas, for example, there has been a decrease in domestic abuse reports from the state’s immigrant population even though it is one of the fastest growing immigrant communities in the country.[26]  Police have attributed this decrease to harsh new immigration enforcement in the State.[27]  While many perceive local law enforcement in a positive manner, undocumented women see them as a threat that would result in deportation if they were to interact with them.[28]

IV. Negative Reactions to the Proposed Bills

Although there has been a push to enact the bills introduced in Maryland, there has been significant pushback amongst many, including local law enforcement.[29]  Some law enforcement officials have argued that the bills  “would place undue restrictions on law enforcement and hinder crime-fighting.”[30]  Those who oppose the bills argue that if enacted, local law enforcement would not be able to protect the community from those undocumented people who are committing crimes.[31]  There is, however, evidence to the contrary.[32]  According to the American Immigration Council, in jurisdictions that refuse to abide by ICE detainers,[33] there are lower crime rates as well as higher rates of economic prosperity.[34]

V. Conclusion

While there has been no direct mention of the prevention of domestic violence in the bills introduced in the Maryland General Assembly, one must agree that officially adopting some, if not all of these policies will reduce fear undocumented women have towards law enforcement.[35]  In reducing such fear, the proposed bills would allow undocumented women to utilize the same resources other women have unfettered access to for purposes of reporting domestic abuse.[36]

*Felicia D. Rugh is a second-year day student at the University of Baltimore School of Law, where she is a staff editor for Law Review. Felicia is a teaching assistant for Professor Knowles’ Introduction to Lawyering Skills course, as well as the 2L representative for the Student Bar Association. She was also recently inducted into the Royal Graham Shannonhouse III Honor Society. This past year, Felicia worked as a law clerk for Cohen, Snyder, Eisenberg & Katzenberg, P.A. This upcoming summer, she will be interning with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.


[1]              Cathryn Ann Paul, Federal Immigration Reform May Be the Goal, but There Are Still Actions We Can Take Today in Maryland, Balt. Sun (Mar. 2, 2021, 8:20 AM), https://www.baltimoresun.com/opinion/op-ed/bs-ed-op-0303-crw-maryland-immigration-bills-20210302-vwd7tivk5nadjnvyqkmr3wiszu-story.html.  Bills of identical or similar nature were also introduced in 2020.  Matthew Prensky, Maryland a Sanctuary State? Dissecting the Immigration Debate, delmarva now (Mar. 2, 2020, 6:00 AM), https://www.delmarvanow.com/story/news/local/maryland/2020/03/02/immigration-issues-maryland-sanctuary-state/4880336002/.

[2]              Paul, supra note 1; Prensky, supra note 1; Audrey Decker, Bill to Rebuild Trust Between Immigrants and Law Enforcement, AP News (Mar. 5, 2021), https://apnews.com/article/maryland-bills-immigration-laws-7faa436e056b460d0589c4de08a2a6b7 (stressing that “[i]mmigrants shouldn’t be afraid to report a crime.”).

[3]              H.D. 304, 2021 Leg., 442nd Sess. (Md. 2021); Decker, supra note 2; see also H.D. 388, 2020 Leg., 441st Sess. (Md. 2020).

[4]              H.D. 16, 2021 Leg., 442nd Sess. (Md. 2021); Audrey Decker, Bill Takes Aim at ICE Detention Centers in Maryland, AP News (Feb. 11, 2021), https://apnews.com/article/annapolis-coronavirus-pandemic-immigration-maryland-bills-ee2d2c37dfa369f302b39696386beff1; see also H.D. 677, 2020 Leg., 441st Sess. (Md. 2020).

[5]              Decker, supra note 2.

[6]              See Sergio España, End Law Enforcement Cooperation with ICE, Balt. Sun (Mar. 10, 2020, 4:10 PM), https://www.baltimoresun.com/opinion/op-ed/bs-ed-op-0311-ice-collaboration-20200310-oul7477z2jc6he5ku4g34p4eh4-story.html.

[7]              Md. H.D. 304; Md. H.D. 16.

[8]              Ian Duncan, Baltimore Mayor Signs Order Protecting Immigrants as City Renews Funding for Lawyers for Potential Deportees, Balt. Sun (Aug. 7, 2019, 11:15 AM), https://www.baltimoresun.com/politics/bs-md-ci-immigrant-executive-order-20190807-o27fc7l6r5b3rhj2lrfkhzrj5e-story.html (“[T]he order is designed to encourage immigrants who are the victims of crime or witnesses to feel comfortable dealing with the police. It builds on a policy . . . prohibiting city officers from telling immigration agents where people they’re looking for are.”).

[9]              See May 2019 Advocate Survey: Immigrant Survivors Fear Reporting Violence, Tahirih Just. Ctr. (June 3, 2019), https://www.tahirih.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/2019-Advocate-Survey-Final.pdf.

[10]             See id.

[11]             John Gramlich, How Border Apprehensions, ICE Arrests and Deportations Have Changed Under Trump, Pew Res. Ctr. (Mar. 2, 2020), https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/03/02/how-border-apprehensions-ice-arrests-and-deportations-have-changed-under-trump/

[12]             The Daily, Inside Trump’s Immigration Crackdown, N.Y. Times, at 08:53 (Sept. 14, 2020), https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/14/podcasts/the-daily/trump-immigration-nation.html; see infra text accompanying notes 17–18 (defining meaning of “collateral arrests”).

[13]             Jeff Barker, Baltimore Immigration Advocates Gearing up for Possible Raids This Weekend, Balt. Sun (July 11, 2019, 6:26 PM), https://www.baltimoresun.com/politics/bs-md-pol-immigration-raids-baltimore-20190711-chnsqqsgpbftveau2shsnvskpq-story.html.

[14]             Dianne Gallagher et al., 680 Undocumented Workers Arrested in Record-Setting Immigration Sweep on the First Day of School, CNN (Aug. 9, 2019, 7:12 AM), https://www.cnn.com/2019/08/08/us/mississippi-immigration-raids-children/index.html.  While their children were at school in Morton, Mississippi, ICE conducted raids and detained hundreds of undocumented people, leaving their children alone and afraid.  Id.

[15]             Duncan, supra note 8.

[16]             Bill Ong Hing, Entering the Trump ICE Age: Contextualizing the New Immigration Enforcement Regime, 5 Tex. A&M L. Rev. 253, 315 (2018).

[17]             Collateral Arrests Raises Allegations of Racial Profiling, Landerholm Immigration, A.P.C. (Apr. 13, 2018), https://www.landerholmimmigration.com/blog/2018/april/collateral-arrests-raises-allegations-of-racial-/.

[18]             Hing, supra note 16, at 315 (noting that with the increase in arrests of non-targeted bystanders, “the threat of being a ‘collateral’ victim of a raid for being at the wrong place at the wrong time [suddenly] became real.”).

[19]             Tom K. Wong et al., The Impact of Interior Immigration Enforcement on the Day-to-Day Behaviors of Undocumented Immigrants, US Immigr. Pol’y Ctr., Apr. 3, 2019, at 6, https://usipc.ucsd.edu/publications/usipc-working-paper-1.pdf

[20]             Id. at 12. 

[21]             Emily Sellers, Comment, Access to Justice for Undocumented Immigrant Victims of Domestic Violence, 84 UMKC L. Rev. 543, 545 (2015).

[22]             Laurie A. Minter, Note, Victimization or Deportation? Addressing the Unsettling Consequences of the U Visa Requirements on Domestic Violence Victims, 41 T. Jefferson L. Rev. 61, 68 (2018).

[23]             Sellers, supra note 21, at 554.

[24]             Ashley Arcidiacono, Comment, Silencing the Voices of Battered Women: How Arizona’s New Anti-Immigration Law “Sb1070” Prevents Undocumented Women from Seeking Relief Under the Violence Against Women Act, 47 Cal. W. L. Rev. 173, 179­–80 (2010).

[25]             Id. at 186.

[26]             Cora Engelbrecht, Fewer Immigrants Are Reporting Domestic Abuse. Police Blame Fear of Deportation, N.Y. Times (June 3, 2018), https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/03/us/immigrants-houston-domestic-violence.html.

[27]             Id.

[28]             Minter, supra note 22, at 69.

[29]             James Whitlow, Three Maryland Sheriffs Speak Out Against Legislation That Would Limit Ability to Work with ICE, Balt. Sun (Feb. 11, 2020, 5:22 PM), https://www.baltimoresun.com/maryland/harford/aegis/cng-ag-immigration-legislation-20200211-tvbwdazu3zb3rhhkilxveutzji-story.html.

[30]             Id.

[31]             Prensky, supra note 1.

[32]             Am. Immigr. Council, Sanctuary Policies: An Overview 4 (2020), https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/sites/default/files/research/sanctuary_policies_an_overview.pdf.

[33]             Immigration Detainers, ACLU, https://www.aclu.org/issues/immigrants-rights/ice-and-border-patrol-abuses/immigration-detainers (last visited Mar. 24, 2021) (“An ICE detainer is a written request that a local jail or other law enforcement agency detain an individual for an additional 48 hours after his or her release date in order to provide ICE agents extra time to decide whether to take the individual into federal custody for removal purposes. ICE’s use of detainers to imprison people without due process and, in many cases, without any charges pending or probable cause of any violation has raised serious constitutional concerns.”).

[34]             Am. Immigr. Council, supra note 32, at 4 (stating that on average, there are “35.5 fewer crimes committed per 10,000 people in the non-detainer counties compared to counties that do honor ICE detainers” and that “[t]he poverty rate is 2.3 percent lower in non-detainer counties.”).

[35]             See Engelbrecht, supra note 26.

[36]             See Sellers, supra note 21, at 545, 552.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: