Yaslin says she will be her family’s first high school graduate. She plans to go to college. The high school senior has lived in Baltimore for nine years. Now she’s afraid.
Recent raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents (ICE) in Southeast Baltimore has a growing community on edge.
“When someone knocks on their door, they have a moment of panic,” Yaslin, who declined to give her last name, told a room full of reporters and cameras at a press conference in City Hall before the City Council meeting. “We need support and we need to feel safe.”
The council unanimously passed a resolution calling on ICE to leave ordinary immigrants, even the undocumented, alone, and “focus all enforcement efforts on arresting criminals who are causing harm to our city (violence, property crimes etc).”
“I don’t know what ICE is,” Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young quipped at the press conference. “It’s summer time coming up and they need to melt.”
Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis reiterated his department’s policy of not asking or caring about a person’s immigration status.
“We will not work with federal law enforcement agencies for the soul purpose of immigration enforcement,” Davis said. “Because public safety depends on mutual trust.”
Councilman Zeke Cohen (1st District), who called the press conference, told of several men recently taken by ICE.
“We lost a barber, a business owner and a father. They’re not gang members or drug dealers,” he said. Cohen likened the recent raids to what Nazi Germany did before the Holocaust. He likened the undocumented immigrants and their families to his own: “They are like my grandmother who left everything behind, including a family who perished in the gas chambers.”
City Council resolutions have no force of law; they are a statement of policy or desire. There is a bill in the state legislature called The Trust Act, which is meant to limit the cooperation state law enforcement officials give to ICE.
Hampstead Hill Academy* Principal Matt Hornbeck said his school had doubled in size, from 400 students to 800, since he took over 14 years ago, and the student body’s Hispanic population increased from 3 percent to 40.
The El Salvadoran Consulate is planning a visit to Hampstead Hill, Hornbeck said. They plan to get the children passports, so if their parents are deported the kids will be able to legally visit them and return to the U.S., where they were born.
Correction: An earlier version of this post identified Hampstead Hill Academy as Hempstead Hill Elementary School. City Paper regrets the error.