The Senate Judicial Proceeding Committee is moving an immigration bill that would prohibit Maryland law enforcement agencies from cooperating with federal authorities to detain and deport undocumented immigrants.

“Passage of this bill will take us to a more humane society, but it will also ultimately make us more safe,” said Judicial Proceedings Chair William Smith at the bill’s hearing on Jan. 27.

The measure would also grant any state official or agency immunity from prosecution for failing to help federal authorities with immigration enforcement.

An aggressive deportation policy over the last several years has deterred the immigrant community in Maryland from contacting law enforcement when they need help the most.

Immigrant advocacy and lawyer groups say that undocumented immigrants avoid reporting crimes and domestic abuse for fear of being deported and/or separated from their children. They avoid participation in investigations and are reluctant to testify in court.

Immigrants are often thrust into the deportation process during routine traffic stops and vehicle accidents.

If passed, the law would prohibit police from questioning someone’s immigration status during a traffic stop or other common interactions — and also prohibit local law enforcement officials and agencies from informing federal authorities of an immigrant’s whereabouts.

Unless a criminal warrant exists, state and local law officials would be barred from cooperating with requests from federal agencies to transfer individuals to federal custody or detain individuals longer than allowed by state law.

Smith said nothing in the bill offers “sanctuary to lawbreakers” or prohibits state and local law enforcement officials from complying with federal arrest warrants.

The bill would prohibit participation in the federal 287g program under the Department of Homeland Security that allows ICE to train and deputize local law enforcement agencies to identify and begin deportation proceedings against undocumented immigrants.