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What does the County Council’s Statement on Immigration Mean for Illegal Residents and Law Enforcement in the County?

February 3, 2017

Montgomery County is not a “sanctuary jurisdiction” despite how it may appear based on recent statements from the County Council.

   “The January 25 President Trump Executive Order has zero impact on our operations but is troubling in creating fear and angst in our community, said Councilmember Craig Rice, who represents District 2-Germantown.

   On Monday, Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett and the Montgomery County Council released a joint statement reaffirming the County’s “Community Values” in the wake of President Donald Trump’s Jan. 25, Executive Order on “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements.”

   The County Executive and County Council’s joint statement reads in part, “Montgomery County is committed to building and maintaining a safe and inclusive community for our residents. Understanding, tolerance, and respect are hallmarks of the Montgomery County way. Social justice for all is what we strive to achieve in our County.”

   “We greatly regret the anxiety that has been stoked among many in our community as a result of the President’s Executive Orders. We issue this statement to assure all of our residents that those orders will not change the way that County police officers or County workers interact with the public and will not impact how we provide social services.”

   “It is longstanding County policy that County police do not enforce federal immigration law. Neither will they inquire about immigration status when individuals are stopped nor target individuals based on their ethnicity, race, or religious beliefs.”

  “The County’s law enforcement leaders are also committed to our values, and they will continue working to build trust in our community. Police Chief Tom Manger, Corrections and Rehabilitation Director Rob Green, Sheriff Darren Popkin, and State’s Attorney John McCarthy are sworn to protect the rights of all residents and to treat all individuals equally.”

   “Your County leaders stand ready to take the steps necessary to defend our values and maintain the integrity of our community. Executive orders are not self-executing. They require additional actions by federal agencies to be implemented. In addition, executive orders are subject to public scrutiny and legal challenges.”

   However, according to 5th District Commander, Captain David Gillespie and other County officials, Montgomery County is not and has never been a “sanctuary jurisdiction.”

   “Montgomery County is not a Sanctuary Jurisdiction,” Gillespie told local business people gathered for a meeting of the Clarksburg Chamber of Commerce meeting on Wednesday. “Despite the fact that we as police officers encounter people every day, we don’t ask about that their immigration status. We do cooperate with federal authorities when they ask for information on people’s status.”

   “Montgomery County is not a ‘Sanctuary Jurisdiction,’ according to Lucille Baur, a spokesperson for the Sheriff’s Office and the County's Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. “County arrest and detention information goes to the State and all State information is accessed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) through their Secure Communities initiative. Montgomery County has maintained a policy that our members of law enforcement do not inquire about anyone's immigration status, nor do our County law enforcement agencies do any immigration enforcement or investigations. We believe that this is the right balance for this County and do not have plans to seek to become a Sanctuary Jurisdiction.”

   Councilmember Craig Rice, (Dist. 2-Germantown) said the Council’s statement on Monday does not affect the way County agencies conduct business. “We are not changing anything in terms of how our [County] government operates. There is a lot of confusion surrounding the definition of a ‘sanctuary city’, therefore there is no plus in trying to use or be labeled with that moniker. Instead, we find it important to assure everyone that we do not ask for citizenship status when and if a person is arrested.”

   However, both Baur and Gillespie said that County law enforcement agencies cooperate with federal agencies. It is in fact, the main reason why Montgomery County is not considered a “Sanctuary Jurisdiction.”

 “None of the County law enforcement agencies enforce federal immigration law,” said Baur. “However, the County's Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation does work cooperatively with ICE when ICE asks about specific serious offenders in custody in our correctional system and DCR does honor ICE criminal detainers and those ICE civil detainers consistent with the Maryland Attorney General guidelines. We do work cooperatively with ICE if they have a warrant or other court order issued by a judge.”

   Baur, continued, “When asked, DCR will notify ICE of the release date of someone being held in our correctional system for criminal offenses committed in Montgomery County, so that ICE can pick them up for their charges. Sanctuary cities like San Francisco will not notify ICE, and do not respond to ICE inquiries about who is being held in their jails.”

   “We do not enforce immigration laws, those are federal laws. The way we do comply,” according to Gillespie, “is that if ICE has a question about somebody we’ve arrested, they might call the jail and ask if that person is currently being detained and in Montgomery County we will comply. In a ‘Sanctuary City” such as New York or San Francisco they will not comply and will not tell the federal agency if that person is in custody. So, while we are not enforcing federal immigration law,” said Gillespie, “we will comply with their questions and if they call us we’ll let them know that, yes, we have that person in custody.”

   “We do not round up folks for ICE,” said Rice. “Those who do not violate of local laws, those who are productive members of our community have nothing to worry about.  We are a welcoming, inclusive, diverse community and will continue to be so.”

   However, Baur noted, “We have no way of knowing at this time, if our County's balanced approach to cooperating with federal agencies would put us in danger of losing any Federal funding.”

 

 

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