ROCKVILLE – Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich recently said that the county will not hold people charged with crimes in custody for more time than the judicial system requires to help Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Elrich wrote in a statement on Aug. 27 that the county received negative comments after a man charged with second-degree rape and for whom ICE had lodged a detainer was released from jail on bond.
“Recently, there have been reports of concerns expressed that Montgomery County has released undocumented people, accused of serious crimes, back into communities, despite the fact that Immigration and Customs Enforcement may have issued detainer requests for them,” said Elrich.
Despite public concerns, the number of rapes reported in the county between Jan. 1 and Sept. 3, 2019 is slightly lower compared to Jan. 1 to Sept. 3, 2018, Montgomery County Police (MCP) spokesperson Officer Rick Goodale wrote in an email to an MCP employee who handles statistics.
“Rapes are 2.6% lower than last year at the same time (Jan. 1 to Sept. 3),” Goodale wrote on Sept 4. “Three-hundred-thirty-one (versus) 340.”
Some rape survivors report the crime years after the incident occurred.
“Rapes are counted toward the year reported, so if rape occurred in 2016 but (was) reported in 2018 then it would count toward 2018 stats,” Goodale wrote.
In regards to those accused of being released, Elrich said that it is the judge and not the county government, such as the council or the executive, who determines if somebody may have a bail set and be released once the person posts bail.
“The release of people – whether they are awaiting trial or have completed serving their sentences – are decisions made by the court system and not by the county government,” Elrich said. “That is the same process for everyone in the court system.”
Montgomery County Police charged the man, 25-year-old Rodrigo Castro-Montejo of Orlando, Florida, with second-degree rape and second-degree assault, alleging he had raped a female friend in a hotel room when he was in Rockville for a wedding Aug. 10. A district court judge ruled in August that Castro-Montejo be held on $10,000 bail. Castro-Montejo was released after someone posted 1% bond on his behalf, according to court documents.
Elrich’s executive order, signed and activated July 22, bars county employees from asking a person about their immigration status and from keeping a person in custody longer than the court system requires for the sole reason of responding to a detainer.
“No agent or department may (…) detain the person based on an administrative warrant or immigration detainer, or otherwise comply with an administrative warrant or an immigration detainer, after that person becomes eligible for release from custody,” according to Section 5 of the executive order.
ICE distributed a statement to the media that it had lodged a detainer for Castro-Montejo, asking that the county contact the agency prior to releasing Castro-Montejo. ICE claimed to have received no contact from the county.
Montgomery County subsequently said in a statement that it had contacted someone at ICE, but the person had not been on duty.
Goodale said the belief that police have a connection to ICE is a common misconception, but that the Montgomery County Department of Corrections, not MCP, handles detainers. In addition, Elrich’s executive order has no effect on how officers perform their duties.
“In my understanding, anything that had to do with the (executive) order he (Elrich) signed has to do with cooperating with ICE, and you know that’s all with (the Montgomery County Department of Corrections),” Goodale said.
Goodale said a person’s immigration status is not the concern of police, because responding to detainers does not fall within police responsibilities. They are concerned only if people report crimes. The Montgomery County Department of Corrections receives and processes detainers.
“We need cooperation with victims and witnesses, and you know, if you’re a victim or a witness of a crime, police are not going to check your immigration status or contact ICE regarding any immigration status,” said Goodale. “If you are charged, arrested and (convicted of) a crime, and you go into the prison system in Montgomery County, then, you know, immigration status could be an issue.”
The county sent out Elrich’s first statement to clarify his executive order since recent media reports of ICE detainers on county criminals on Aug. 14. He wrote that the county would respond to detainers.
MCP charged Carlos Palacios-Amaya, 28, and Mauricio Barrera-Navidad, 29, with the second-degree rape of a girl on separate instances in her Germantown home. ICE confirmed both men had detainers on them. Both men sit in jail awaiting trial.
“After determining that the suspects are undocumented immigrants, Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) requested that the county notify them if and when the two men are scheduled to be released from custody for any reason,” Elrich wrote Aug. 14. “The county will do so. The new Promoting Community Trust Executive Order has not changed the county’s policy on cooperating with ICE requests for notification of the release of individuals charged with serious crimes.”