During a four-day sweep last week, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials targeted so-called sanctuary cities, arresting nearly 500 people nationwide, including 28 in Maryland and at least five in Baltimore. While ICE claims that it targeting people with criminal histories, a Sun staff editorial points out that all of the 28 Maryland detainees were arrested on civil immigration charges and that there was little evidence of criminal histories among those detained. Mayor Pugh released a statement reiterating the need for due process and legal representation for detainees, suggesting “[n]o one should have to live in fear, and the Mayor’s Office of Multicultural and Immigrant Affairs (MIMA),in partnership with the Open Society Institute (OSI) have established the SAFE City Baltimore Fund to increase access to legal counsel. With this new tool, residents can find help and address their concerns proactively.”
Given this context, OSI is especially pleased to announce that Safe City Baltimore, the fund established to provide legal defense services to Baltimore residents threatened by increased federal immigration enforcement, has raised more than $400,000 in individual and institutional donations and can begin making grants to organizations providing legal services.
President Trump’s January executive order on immigration resulted in increased detentions and deportations of Baltimore-area immigrants, including many with legal claims to stay in the U.S. Studies by the Center for Popular Democracy and others indicated that detainees with legal representation are four times more likely to be able to stay in the U.S., where many had lived for years, started families, and held steady employment, that those without representation.
As a result of the increased detentions and deportations, MIMA Director Catalina Rodriguez-Lima, a member of OSI-Baltimore’s Leadership Council, approached OSI Director Diana Morris about the possibility of OSI creating a fund to raise money to provide legal services and education to threatened immigrants. OSI agreed and launched Safe City Baltimore in April with $100,000 of its own funds, along with $100,000 from the Abell Foundations, and $25,000 from the Baltimore Community Foundation. (Read the Baltimore Sun story about the launch of Safe City Baltimore.)
OSI and MIMA will announce more information about grant disbursement in the coming days.