ROCKVILLE – As cities around the country continue to brace themselves for possible ICE raids looking to capture illegal immigrants, Montgomery County officials announced their decision to join a growing number of municipalities and congressional members who are looking for ways to protect their immigrant communities.
Joined by members of the Montgomery County Council and other community leaders, County Executive Mark Elrich announced an executive order on July 22, called The Promoting Community Trust Executive Order, which will bar any communication or collaboration between county agencies and ICE.
The signing of the order gives the message to all residents that Montgomery County will be a safe place and that its immigrant population can trust local officials, Elrich said.
According to the U.S. Census, 32.6% of the county’s population is considered to be foreign-born.
“Any perception that such contact will lead to negative immigration consequences for an individual or a member of their families undermines that goal and errored public safety,” Elrich said.
The order also prohibits county officials from asking citizenship or immigration status unless required by a federal court order. Lastly, Montgomery County Police (MCP) will be prohibited from making an arrest due to a warrant of any kind by federal authorities.
Montgomery County Acting Police Chief Marcus Jones, told the Associated Press that the policy has already gone into effect within the department. If ICE officials seek to deport someone who is in custody, they will have to wait for that person and track them down independently without the help of MCP.
“We have no direct contact with ICE about any immigration issues,” Jones said. “We’re not doing any operations with ICE in Montgomery County.”
“Enforcing immigration law is the sole responsibility of the federal government of the United States,” Elrich said. “It is not in the interest of Montgomery County to utilize its limited resources to facilitate the enforcement of civil immigration law.”
The signing of Elrich’s executive order comes after multiple reports have suggested that President Donald Trump and ICE officials have been preparing for weeks to start raids into specific towns and cities throughout the United States.
As of June 22, there has been no official notice of a raid in Maryland, but there have been rumors throughout the community that ICE officials were seen in Takoma Park last week. Members of the county council spoke about fears from their constituents of the dangers of leaving their homes and possible sightings of immigration officers at Metro bus stops.
“When Trump came out and said we would have this big surge, people have been making decisions,” Councilmember Tom Hucker said. “Do they go to the post office? Do they go to the dry cleaners? People are afraid to leave their homes. They’re ordering stuff online. And that’s whether they’re here legally or not.”
CASA, a Latino immigrant advocacy organization, was the main organization pushing for the order, according to county officials. Gustavo Torres, the executive director of CASA’s Maryland chapter, thanked Elrich, the council and fellow local community groups for working on the “first step” to help the county’s immigrant population feel safer.
“We really need to make sure we celebrate this important victory, and we need to celebrate with our political leadership today,” Torres said. “But tomorrow, this coalition is ready to make sure this victory remains a permanent victory.”
Montgomery County’s response comes as U.S. Rep. Anthony Brown (D-Md.) proposed a bill that will protect asylum seekers and other “vulnerable populations” by providing them with legal services. On July 16, the former lieutenant governor introduced the Equal Justice for Immigrants Act, which would extend the right to counsel to all people in the county, including immigrants in the court system.
The bill would also strike down the “no expense to the government” provision included in The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 and reverse Trump’s current Migrant Protection Protocols, which ask all asylum seekers coming through the southern border to remain in Mexico as they wait for their court case.
“By providing legal representation, ending the ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy and increasing transparency in the adjudication and appeals processes, Congress can equip America’s immigrant communities with a legal defense strong enough to withstand the Trump administration’s most craven, inhumane policies,” Brown said.
If passed, the bill would give asylum seekers under age 21, seniors older than 60, those who identify as LGBTQ, pregnant and nursing individuals and those with special religious considerations the right to legal counsel.
The new $720 million proposal would allow asylum seekers to stay in the country during the proceedings. The screening process would fall under the guidelines of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services employees.
The bill already has seven co-sponsors in the house: Reps. Adriano Espaillat (D-NY.), Darren Soto (D-Fla.), Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Hank Johnson Jr. (D-Ga.) and Juan Vargas (D-Calif.) as well as Washington, D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton.