LAUREL – Following a lively and lengthy discussion, the Prince George’s County Municipal Association passed a resolution in support of the immigration programs Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) on Oct. 20.
Under resolution 2017-06, the association will send a letter in support of DACA and TPS to the Maryland State delegation and will provide an amicus brief for lawsuits filed by the NAACP and CASA de Maryland.
The Municipal Association is comprised of elected and appointed officials from the county’s 27 cities and towns. Nine Prince George’s municipalities voted in favor of the resolution while eight abstained, just clearing the necessary eight votes in order to pass.
The DACA program protects young adult unauthorized immigrants from deportation and allows them to work in the United States legally. In September, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Donald Trump administration would phase out the DACA program over the next few months.
TPS is an immigration status for people living in the U.S. who cannot return to their original countries because of political or environmental conditions. This status must be regularly renewed by officials in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). If the DHS does not choose to renew these statuses in November, thousands of immigrants could be deported.
More than 50 community members attended the meeting. Some wore CASA or National TPS Alliance t-shirts, and a handful of people held signs in support of immigrants.
Four residents and a representative from the Salvadoran consulate spoke in favor of the resolution.
The resolution states that the “Prince George’s Municipal Association supports the Temporary Protected Status program and calls on the Department of Homeland Security to continue the TPS program and support refugees escaping war, natural disasters and crime; and be it further resolved that the Prince George’s Municipal Association supports a permanent status with a pathway to citizenship and calls on Congress to expeditiously adopt a clean bill that would permanently legalize the status of DACA and TPS holders, and those that fulfill similar criteria, including a pathway to citizenship.”
The resolution also encourages other Prince George’s cities and towns to request the DHS and Congress protect TPS and DACA holders.
When the floor opened for discussion before the vote, the officials engaged in conversation about the resolution’s wording. Some also expressed a desire for more time to discuss the document with their jurisdictions.
Three amendments to the document removed Trump’s name from the resolution, changed the description of DACA from “resounding success” to “success,” and switched the “Prince George’s Municipal Association and its 27 municipalities” to “the Prince George’s County Municipal Association.”
A significant point of debate was whether the association should wait until its session in November to vote on the resolution, since several members said they had not yet had a chance to discuss the matter with their respective councils and constituents. The document had been introduced during the September session.
“I almost feel as if I need to abstain from this because we are representing our citizens, and actually not only just the city council, but the 23,000 plus people of Greenbelt,” said Greenbelt Councilman Konrad Herling. “I have a feeling the people would be very supportive of this. I feel that this is premature. I’m not saying not do it, but I’m saying let’s do it in a way (we’re all comfortable with).”
Other representatives had already discussed this with their councils. Also, Mount Rainier Councilwoman Celina Benitez pointed out that the November deadline for TPS made the timing of this resolution extremely important.
Joseph Solomon, president of the municipal association and Hyattsville council member, said in a separate interview that while he believes some people did genuinely want the opportunity to return to their jurisdictions, he suspected others were using it simply to delay the vote.
“I think for some of the individuals it was a stalling tactic, and they didn’t have any interest in passing the resolution,” Solomon said. “I won’t say that everyone felt that way. Only a small sample of the representatives who abstained, I believe at least two or three wanted an opportunity to take it back to their councils.”
Representatives from Bladensburg, Cheverly, Edmonston, Hyattsville, Landover Hills, Morningside, Mount Rainier, Brentwood and Colmar Manor voted for the resolution. Those from Berwyn Heights, District Heights, Greenbelt, Laurel, New Carrollton, University Park, Cottage City and Riverdale Park abstained.
Benitez drafted the resolution and Solomon introduced it to the association on Sept. 21.
Benitez also wrote a resolution in support of DACA and TPS for Mount Rainier. The resolution passed their council.
“I didn’t know how far it could go,” she said. “When the option to bring it to the Prince George’s Municipal Association to discuss it in the broader sense with 27 municipalities, it felt right to bring it up.”
She said the resolution is “letting our residents know at the local level we’re also aware of this happening. It gives an extra voice to protect the rights of our residents.”
Brentwood and Hyattsville have also passed similar resolutions.
“The fact that local municipalities and leaders are answering the call to action to stand in solidarity with the immigrant community is huge,” said Julio Murillo, a policy analyst with CASA. “These officials who represent thousands of people are standing in solidarity with our community in their time of need, in a time when families are being attacked from the national level. They have stood up and answered their call to action to ensure that their residents who live in their municipalities feel safe and that they know that their local elected officials are not only ensuring that they feel safe, but are also supporting programs that benefit them and their livelihood.”