O'Malley to kick off immigrant integration event

Gov. Martin O'Malley will speak Sunday to a group that could be influential in the 2016 presidential race, but this time he won't have to travel to an early primary or caucus state to do so.

The governor is scheduled to give the opening address to the National Immigrant Integration Conference at 9 a.m. that day at the Baltimore Hilton. According to the organizers, O'Malley will speak about Maryland's efforts to welcome immigrants and promote their contributions to society.

The conference is expected to attract immigrants' rights organizations from around the country. The four-day event actually kicks off Saturday with a New Americans Street Festival Saturday outside the Hilton from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

"New Americans" is the term O'Malley used to describe immigrants in his political battles with former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.  It was a term Ehrlich derided when debating O'Malley, but the Republican never got much traction on the immigration issue in deep-blue Maryland.

In recent months, O'Malley has traveled far and wide in his official position as a surrogate for President Obama and chairman of the Democratic Governors Association -- and in his unofficial role as one of the most-mentioned potentential candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016. Last weekend, his travels took him to Iowa, both a 2012 battleground and site of the nation's first caucus.

Other elected Maryland officials expected to address the conference are Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards and Motgomery County Executive Ike Leggett. NAACP President Ben Jealous will also speak.