Elrich, ICE Call Their Meeting ‘Productive’
County executive talked with agency representatives Wednesday afternoon
Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich and representatives from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency both described a meeting they had Wednesday afternoon as “productive.”
The meeting was held a week after the Trump administration, including Ken Cuccinelli, the acting director for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, posted online criticisms of a Montgomery County executive order that prevents local agencies from collaborating with ICE.
The posts spurred a statement of defense from the county council and attracted renewed media attention to the executive order, issued in July.
Elrich met with four staff members from ICE’s Baltimore Field Office at around 2 p.m., he said.
“I thought the conversation was good,” Elrich said. “There’s been a little too much hyperbole around this, so they emphasized what they thought was important and we listened.”
ICE representatives from Baltimore requested the meeting, he added.
The agency didn’t allow Bethesda Beat to interview anyone from the agency who attended the meeting. Instead, it sent a prepared statement from Deputy Field Office Director Frank Madrigal, who described the meeting as “welcome, productive, and more supportive of our public safety practitioners and the communities they serve.”
“Ultimately, law enforcement agencies need to be able to talk to each other to keep the people of Maryland safe,” the statement continued. “We’ve taken steps toward that important need today.”
Elrich said the agency’s main concerns centered on how and when undocumented immigrants in the Montgomery County judicial system are transferred to ICE custody.
The agency has previously complained that the county does not hold immigrants with federal detainers past their release from the county Department of Corrections. In other words, if an undocumented immigrant charged with a crime can post bail or is otherwise released, the county will not follow ICE’s request to hold a person up to 48 hours.
That’s unlikely to change, Elrich said. The Department of Corrections has long declined to cooperate with federal detainers, a policy that originated with former County Executive Ike Leggett. The department does notify ICE when undocumented immigrants are released, he added, but it’s up to the agency to assume custody right away.
“I kind of said, ‘Look, we just don’t do that,’” Elrich said, referring to detainer requests. “But I think we clarified that it didn’t mean they couldn’t talk to us. Our interpretation of what it means not to cooperate is not a blanket statement that we won’t speak to them at all.”
The agency also brought up concerns over detainee transfers, Elrich said.
When ICE agents do assume custody of undocumented immigrants at the county detention center — usually in cases when they arrive before a scheduled release or the county agrees to hold a suspect accused of a serious crime — the transfer occurs in the lobby. ICE representatives noted safety issues with that location, Elrich said, given the lack of security staff.
The county executive was already planning a change to that policy to allow the transfer to occur in a more secure location. But Elrich said he also brought up his own concerns with ICE representatives.
“Things like, if they get access to other spaces [at the detention center], it’s only for the specific prisoner — it doesn’t mean they can question other people,” he said. “And they told me that they don’t do that, so it felt like a reasonable discussion.”
Elrich said he plans to discuss the meeting further with his staff and schedule a follow-up conversation with ICE.
Kate Masters can be reached at Kate.Masters@bethesdamagazine.com