News of the alleged rape of a 14-year-old freshman girl by two recent Central American immigrants in the bathroom of Rockville High School has reached the White House.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer addressed the incident Tuesday during a press briefing after being prompted by Fox 5 D.C. reporter Ronica Cleary, who asked if President Donald Trump would consider denying public education to students based on their immigration status.
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Spicer responded at length.
“Let’s remember the human side of this, that this is a tragic event that no child, no person, no parent should ever have to deal with,” Spicer said. “School should be a place where a parent puts their child on a bus or drops them off … and knows that they are safe. The idea that this occurred is shocking, disturbing, horrific, and whatever words someone can think of.”
Speaking about the alleged victim, he said she “fought to come to this country legally because of the freedoms and treasures of this nation and to think this tragedy would occur to someone who has personally endured that kind of struggle to come to this nation and then face this is reprehensible.”
Neither Montgomery County police nor Montgomery County Public Schools has shared any information about the girl other than her age and that she is a freshman at the school.
Police said Henry Sanchez-Milian, 18, and Jose Montano, 17, who were freshmen at the school, forced the girl into the bathroom and then brutally raped her Thursday morning. After they let her go, she reported the incident to school staff, which then called police. The pair were then arrested and charged with first-degree rape and other charges after blood and other evidence was recovered in the bathroom, according to the charging documents
Sanchez-Milian, who is from Guatemala and whom police initially named as Henry Sanchez, and Montano, from El Salvador, had both entered the country in the past eight months, according to ABC7.
An Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) spokesman told Bethesda Beat Monday that a U.S. Border Patrol agent encountered Sanchez-Milian in Rio Grande Valley, Texas, in August 2016 and the agent determined Sanchez-Milian entered the country unlawfully from Mexico. The 18-year-old was issued a notice to appear before an immigration judge, but a hearing has not yet been scheduled. ICE declined to provide any information about the immigration status of Montano because he is a minor.
Prior to the incident at Rockville High, Sanchez-Milian had been living in an apartment with his father in Aspen Hill, according to police, while investigators had not confirmed Montano’s address. Both men were ordered held without bond Friday.
On Tuesday, Spicer said that while Trump believes education is a state and local issue, the Rockville case gives “pause for concern.”
“I think the city should look at its policies and I think this is something authorities are going to look at,” Spicer said. “Part of the reason the president has made illegal immigration and [a] crackdown such a big deal is because of tragedies like this.”
Spicer also mentioned Trump’s immigration order that threatens to withhold federal funding from jurisdictions that don’t cooperate with federal immigration agencies—so-called “sanctuary cities.”
“This executive order is dealing with people who have committed crimes who local enforcement agencies or municipalities and at the state level are not dealing with,” Spicer said. “Local municipal law enforcement, for whatever reason, in some cases they are prohibited, but for one reason or another are not enforcing the law or turning that individual over to be deported. I think this is another example of why this issue needs to be addressed.”
On Monday, ICE published a report on its website titled “Declined Detainers” that Spicer pointed to during the press conference. The report lists Montgomery County among the jurisdictions that have not cooperated fully with federal immigration agencies. The report notes the county “will not honor ICE detainers without adequate probable cause” as a result of an October 2014 decision by County Executive Ike Leggett. About 100 other jurisdictions in the U.S. were named in the report.
Montgomery County officials, who have long maintained the county is not a “sanctuary” jurisdiction because it informs the FBI and ICE about the criminals arrested in the county, pushed back Monday against the county’s inclusion on the list.
County spokesman Patrick Lacefield told The Baltimore Sun that the report’s claim that the Montgomery County Detention Center didn’t honor a Nov. 30 detainer request is not accurate. Lacefield told the paper the county searched, but found no records about a hold request for the date that the Department of Homeland Security said the detainer had been issued.
County officials have said they honor detainer requests, but can’t lawfully hold criminals past their scheduled release dates without probable cause. It’s the responsibility of ICE or other federal agencies to pick up prisoners held in the county before they are released if they have pending issues with the individuals, officials said.