- The Washington Times - Monday, July 22, 2019

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich on Monday signed an executive order barring all county agencies from cooperating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security in immigration enforcement operations.

“This is probably one of those days when you wish you didn’t have to do things like this, but we have to do things like this,” Mr. Elrich said at a press conference before signing the Promoting Community Trust Executive Order.

The executive order, which took effect immediately, also prohibits county employees from inquiring about residents’ immigration status and making benefits conditional on actual or perceived immigration status. It applies only to executive branch agencies.


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The county’s police and correction departments may not act on directives from DHS “out of belief that a person is not present legally in the United States or has committed civil immigration violations,” Mr. Elrich said.

The purpose of the executive order is to improve safety in the community “by ensuring that immigrant and otherwise vulnerable communities can engage with County departments, including public safety departments, with assurance that such engagement will not be used to assist in civil immigration enforcement or a federal discriminatory practice,” according to a press release about the order.



County council members and community leaders at the press conference spoke in English and Spanish about the importance of supporting the immigrant community in Montgomery County.

“It is a fallacy when folks try to somehow scapegoat immigrants, as if we are here to somehow destroy the fabric of this country,” said council President Nancy Navarro, District 4 Democrat. “A country that was really formed on the basis of being a welcoming country, welcoming people who were facing persecution, welcoming those who wanted that American dream.”

Mr. Elrich, a Democrat, noted that immigrants account for 30% of the county’s population and that enforcing immigration law is the sole responsibility of the federal government, not the county.

But Frank Madrigal, deputy director of the ICE Baltimore field office, said Maryland will become more unsafe if government agencies can’t communicate with ICE about violent criminals who are illegally in the country. He also expressed concern that local law enforcement will become less effective.

“They are working in more narrow guidelines and they might not be identifying gang members that they otherwise would because they are trying to steer clear of this arbitrary immigration policy,” Mr. Madrigal said.

He said he doesn’t see a lot of “substance” to the argument that immigrants avoid communicating with agencies out of fear of repercussions from ICE, noting that 911 responders do not inquire about a caller’s citizenship.

“When it works really well and the immigrant community understands how things work and what the realities are, they will go to a police station and ask to speak with the immigration officer and ask to speak with ICE,” Mr. Madrigal said, adding that ICE must follow due process and can’t apprehend someone and immediately put them on a plane.

The Montgomery County Republican Party said that a policy of cooperation would make Maryland safer and that ICE has stated its focus is on criminals, not peaceful individuals.

“If you take politics out of the decision, it quickly becomes apparent that one government agency refusing to share relevant information about law enforcement activities with another government agency makes no sense,” said Alexander Bush, a spokesman for the Montgomery County Republican Party.

Sheriff Charles Jenkins of neighboring Frederick County said he fears a spillover effect from Montgomery County’s directive, saying criminals don’t pay attention to jurisdictional boundaries. He said criminals will be released onto the streets instead of into the custody of ICE agents.

The executive order follows reports of countrywide ICE raids.

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