Baltimore state’s attorney tells prosecutors to ease off illegal immigrants

By Will Racke, DCNF 

The Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office wants prosecutors to reconsider charging illegal immigrants with non-violent crimes if they believe doing so will trigger “collateral consequences” that lead to deportation.

Chief Deputy State’s Attorney Michael Schatzow told his staff that tough immigration enforcement policies under the Trump administration increase the likelihood that federal authorities will target illegal immigrants convicted of minor offenses.

The Justice Department’s deportation efforts “have increased the potential collateral consequences to certain immigrants of minor, non-violent criminal conduct,” Schatzow wrote in a memo obtained Thursday by the Baltimore Sun.

“In considering the appropriate disposition of a minor, non-violent criminal case, please be certain to consider those potential consequences to the victim, witnesses, and the defendant,” he added.

The memo follows a similar order from the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, which on Monday said it will implement new prosecution guidelines in order to shield illegal immigrants accused of minor crimes from deportation. Acting Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez said his office will maintain an “immigration-neutral disposition” by allowing illegal immigrant defendants to plead down to minor crimes that wouldn’t normally qualify as grounds for deportation.

President Donald Trump has cracked down on illegal immigration in his first three months in office, stepping up detention and removal of aliens with criminal records of any kind. The Department of Homeland Security in February issued guidance that there are no longer “classes or categories of removable aliens” exempt from potential enforcement, including deportation.

The administration also has threatened to withhold federal grants from sanctuary cities, but Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh says Baltimore is not a sanctuary city because it doesn’t operate its own jail and doesn’t make decisions about whether to hold people charged with immigration crimes, the Sun reported.

Baltimore was not among a group of eight cities the Justice Department said could funding cuts because of their lack of cooperation with immigration authorities.

The state’s attorney’s memo comes as Baltimore suffers through its worst wave of violence in nearly 20 years. The city has already racked up 101 murders, a 30 percent increase from the same time period a year ago. The last time Baltimore had 100 murders before the end of April was in 1998.

Pugh said Wednesday that she has asked the FBI for additional agents to help an understaffed Baltimore Police Department get a grip on the runaway violence.

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