SILVER SPRING — County Executive Marc Elrich has not been contacted by the federal government since he announced his executive order on July 22 to bar any communication or collaboration between county agencies and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
“I haven’t heard from the federal government,” Elrich said, adding he had not really expected to.
The county’s policy, called The Promoting Community Trust Executive Order, does not change what the county has been doing for the past several years in terms of its hands-off immigration policy.
“This is not exactly new. This has been our policy,” Elrich said.
The order was signed with members of the county council and several immigration community leaders looking on to send a message that the county cares about the safety of its immigrant population and that undocumented immigrants should not fear the police.
“This is very consistent with Montgomery County values,” Elrich said.
However, the Montgomery County Republican Party disagrees and called the executive order a “political stunt.”
The Montgomery County Republican Party issued a press release that accused Elrich of making the county “less safe.”
Party Chairman Alexander Bush wrote, “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.”
The Republican Party’s statement also noted, “So long as enforcement does not include targeted courthouse arrests of crime victims, a policy of cooperation will only make Montgomery County safer.”
According to Bush, former President Obama stated in a 2014 address on immigration that he had increased the deportation of criminal immigrants by 80%.
Therefore, Bush wrote, “Elrich’s political stunt is all about opposing a president he hates, even at the risk of the safety of Montgomery County residents.”
Elrich said the Republican Party did not contact him, but “If they wanted, we could talk.”
He disagreed with their assessment of the executive order and said it “makes us safer,” as it enables undocumented residents to live without fear of deportation.
Gaithersburg Chief of Police Mark Sroka posted a short video on Facebook declaring that “No officer in the City of Gaithersburg has been deputized to enforce federal immigration laws” and, therefore, will not arrest undocumented immigrants solely due to their immigration status.
“If people are afraid to have contact with local police, they will not report crimes, serve as witness or tell the police what is going on in their neighborhoods, Sroka said in the video.
That is why, he said, he believes it is important for all county residents to feel safe when speaking with police or other county officials, something that could not happen if they lived in constant fear of deportation.
The city’s policy is that a person must be accused of a separate, arrestable offense before that person could be arrested for being in this country illegally.
Since issuing his executive order about 10 days ago, Elrich said he has received some, but not a lot, of comments from residents.
“Some residents are really happy, and others don’t really agree with us,” Elrich noted. “My experience has been much more favorable than unfavorable.”
In announcing the order, Elrich noted, “The county and I stand behind our immigrants.”
He also noted that Montgomery County is “one of the most diverse counties in the United States,” and that enforcing immigration law is the job of the federal government and no county funds should be spent doing so.
Specifically, the order prohibits county employees from asking about a person’s citizenship unless determining that information is required to receive a specific benefit.
Unless ordered by the court, county employees cannot investigate a person’s citizenship, according to the new order, which went into effect immediately.
Also, corrections officers are not permitted to detain someone because of their immigration status. If ICE officials want to deport someone in custody by the county, they will have to do so independently of the Montgomery County Police, according to the executive order.