Montgomery Officials Say Fear of Deportation Affects Immigrant Community

Montgomery Officials Say Fear of Deportation Affects Immigrant Community

Council supports Elrich’s executive order prohibiting questions about legal status

| Published:
Elrich July 22 resized

Marc Elrich

Dan Schere

Montgomery County elected officials say immigrants hesitate to go out in public due to fear of deportation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials.

During a news conference Monday morning, Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich and County Council members reaffirmed the county’s longstanding policy of not asking about people’s immigration status. They spoke of their support for an order Elrich has issued making the policy official.

Elrich said the act guarantees that no county employee will assist an investigation by ICE agents into a person’s citizenship and that no employment decisions in the county would be based on immigration status. He said immigrants should not have to fear contacting the police.

“Any perception that they [immigrants] feel unsafe undermines the public,” he said.

One-third of the county’s population is foreign-born according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The “Promoting Community Trust Executive Order” says no county departments may aid ICE in its enforcement efforts.

The order also prohibits any officials from asking about citizenship or immigration status unless required by a federal court order and prohibits police from making an arrest due to a warrant or order from federal authorities.

During the news conference, Council member Gabe Albornoz said that for the last year and a half, he has heard of immigrant children from both legal and undocumented families that have stayed home from school, afraid of President Donald Trump’s repeated promises to conduct immigration raids and deport more than one million immigrants.

Albornoz said in an interview after the news conference that Watkins Mill High School and Gaithersburg High School are two schools that might have been affected through decreased attendance, although he didn’t have specific numbers.

“The rhetoric that we’re hearing at the national level is having an impact on the social and emotional well-being of families here in the county,” he said.

Montgomery County Public Schools officials could not be reached for comment.

Albornoz, who chairs the county’s Health and Human Services Committee, added that there has been a decline in requests for health services from immigrants.

“Our hope is that through an act like this, we can let folks know and reinforce that we’re here to support them,” he said.

Council member Tom Hucker said he’s heard unconfirmed rumors from constituents in his district that ICE officers have been at Metro stations. One report, he said, involved a Latino man being profiled by ICE agents who ran after him as he stepped onto a train and eluded the officers.

Hucker said he contacted the station manager in Silver Spring to ask if the reports were true, but no one could confirm them. Acting Police Chief Marcus Jones also, Hucker said, did not know if federal immigration authorities were present at the Metro station.

Hucker said more general feedback he has heard from constituents is a broad fear from immigrants to appear in public.

“When Trump came out and said we would have this big surge, people have been making decisions. Do they go to the post office? Do they go to the dry cleaner? People are afraid to leave their homes. They’re ordering stuff online. And that’s whether they’re here legally or not,” he said.

Gustavo Torres, the executive director of Maryland’s chapter of CASA, a Latino immigrant advocacy organization, thanked Elrich for signing the order. CASA was the main organization pushing for the order.

“We celebrate immigrants. We celebrate the contribution of the immigrant community. That is exactly this executive order,” Torres said.

Elrich’s order became effective immediately Monday.

Dan Schere can be reached at Daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com

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