WASHINGTON — U.S. Congressman David Trone (MD-6) has sent a letter urging Alejandro Mayorkas, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), to terminate an immigration enforcement agreement between Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office in Maryland.
The letter from Frederick County’s representative in the U.S. Congress follows an administrative complaint filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and ACLU of Maryland in July seeking an investigation by DHS into the propriety of continuing an immigration enforcement agreement under Section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act following Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins’ federal criminal indictment.
The letter highlights a pattern of harassment and targeting of Black and Latino people based on perceived race and ethnicity; unwarranted traffic stops; use of deadly force; and poor conditions in the local jail, which is overseen by the Sheriff’s Office.
“The Sheriff’s Office also oversees the local jail where, in March 2023, dozens of detained individuals complained that following a sewage system collapse, they were surrounded by human feces for hours. They described being forced to sleep in their own feces and locked into their cells, instead of being moved to another location,” the letter reads.
“Although Sheriff Jenkins is free to disagree with current immigration policy and has the right to express his views, the federal government can, and should, refuse to grant federal immigration powers to individuals like Jenkins who use their platform to stoke hatred and fear of immigrants — and thereby undermine public safety for all,” the letter continues.
“The Frederick County Sheriff’s Office has demonstrated that it’s unfit to use its federal immigration powers in a lawful and impartial way. The egregious actions of Sheriff Jenkins under this program are unacceptable, and it’s time for the federal government to take a stand in defense of civil rights across Maryland,” said Congressman David Trone. “I urge the Biden-Harris Administration to take action to end this immigration enforcement agreement and restore public safety to our community. Having partnered with the ACLU for over 25 years, I’m proud to work with them in this effort to ensure Marylanders are protected.”
“The Black and Brown immigrant community in Frederick has endured the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office’s misconduct under Sheriff Jenkins for far too long,” said Nick Taichi Steiner, ACLU of Maryland staff attorney. “The federal government should stop empowering a law enforcement official who seems to believe he is above the law, who is xenophobic against immigrants in the community he is supposed to serve, and who has been indicted for federal crimes. Enough is enough.”
“The Biden administration should not hand anti-immigrant sheriffs federal enforcement authorities, which they have exploited to discriminate against our neighbors and loved ones,” said Naureen Shah, ACLU senior legislative counsel. “The 287(g) program undermines public safety by making residents afraid that any interaction with law enforcement could lead to unfair targeting and deportation of themselves or their family members.”
Read the full letter here or below:
September 8, 2023
Dear Secretary Mayorkas,
I write to ask that you direct U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to terminate its 287(g) Memorandum of Agreement with the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office in Maryland. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the ACLU of Maryland have filed an administrative complaint to request an investigation by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) into the propriety of continuing the 287(g) agreement between Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office. The numerous reports of civil rights violations, in addition to the complaint made by the ACLU and the ACLU of Maryland, make it inappropriate to continue delegating federal immigration enforcement authority to the Sheriff’s Office.
Several of my constituents have reported being harassed due to their perceived race or ethnicity and subjected to unwarranted traffic stops by the Sheriff’s Office, a pattern that local organizations have corroborated. A 2017 study of Frederick County’s 287(g) program found that since the program began in 2008, it has led to increased arrests of Latino individuals— “11 to 13 more [Latino individuals] per month than would be expected without the program.” The data indicates that the Sheriff’s Office has focused more on the Latino community since the 287(g) program began. The Sheriff’s Office has also subjected Black people in Frederick to traffic stops at a rate almost double their population, according to the most recent data it reported to the state.
In one case, deputies stopped Sara Medrano, a 13-year resident of Frederick who was driving with her grandchildren, allegedly for a burnt-out taillight. After questioning her about her immigration status, deputies claimed that immigration agents would be coming to get her, but after an hour they let her go. “I was so scared thinking that this stop would be the last moment I would have with my grandchildren and my daughter,” she said. Marylanders should never have to live in fear of arbitrary actions by those who have sworn to protect them.
In addition, the Washington Post has documented several recent deadly force cases involving the Sheriff’s Office. These include the case of Daniel Vail, who was shot at 18 times in his own apartment; Jarrel Gray, a Black man killed after a deputy deployed a stun gun twice on him; and a man fatally shot after threatening deputies with scissors.
The Sheriff’s Office also oversees the local jail where, in March 2023, dozens of detained individuals complained that following a sewage system collapse, they were surrounded by human feces for hours. They described being forced to sleep in their own feces and locked into their cells, instead of being moved to another location. The jail also has a history of people dying by suicide or suffering medical crises while detained.
While I recognize that DHS places high value on its partnership with law enforcement agencies around the country, it should not delegate federal enforcement authorities to agencies that denigrate public trust by engaging in civil rights violations, such as the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office.
As you recently noted in testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, when elected officials use anti-immigrant rhetoric, they contribute to the threat of hate-based violence in our communities. Although Sheriff Jenkins is free to disagree with current immigration policy and has the right to express his views, the federal government can, and should, refuse to grant federal immigration powers to individuals like Jenkins who use their platform to stoke hatred and fear of immigrants—and thereby undermine public safety for all.
As President Biden recently emphasized in remarks about police abuses: “The vast majority of Americans want the same thing: trust, safety, accountability.” In service of these values, I respectfully request that you direct the termination of ICE’s delegation of federal immigration authority to the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office immediately to ensure the safety, security, and just treatment of all Marylanders.
Member of Congress