WASHINGTON (WMAL) – The debate over whether the Frederick County’s Sheriff’s Office should cooperate with ICE will be in the spotlight at dueling rallies Sunday.
Those supporting Sheriff Chuck Jenkins and the county’s participation in the 287 g program – which allows the sheriff’s office to cooperate fully with ICE- will rally at Baker Park. A few blocks away at the Carroll Creek Amphitheater the Rise Coalition and immigrant rights advocates will hold what’s being dubbed a Unity Rally.
The rallies come as the national debate over illegal immigration rages, and Frederick County residents and leaders are split on whether the county should continue to participate in the 287 g program. An independent third-party is now preparing to audit the program, which Sheriff Chuck Jenkins said has enabled the county to turn over nearly 1,600 illegal immigrants accused of crimes to ICE over the last 11 years. Jenkins and supporters of the program believe it keeps the county safer, but opponents believe it instills fear in immigrants living in the county legally and illegally. The audit will look into how much the program costs the county but not how it is run.
“As far as there being a cost, I’m okay with that because that’s what it cost to keep citizens safe,” program supporter and vice president of the Frederick County Council Michael Blue told WMAL’s Larry O’Connor show.
Blue believes the audit will find the cost to the county is minimal.
“We’re paying the federal government to do their job for them, which, as someone who was raised conservative, I find mind boggling, frankly,” said Juliana Downey with the Rise Coalition of Western Maryland, which is sponsoring the Unity Rally.
Downey said the county should be cautious to enter into an agreement with a federal agency that she calls “chaotic.”
People on both sides of the illegal immigration debate in the county are passionate about their beliefs, which has prompted some safety concerns ahead of Sunday’s rallies.
Frederick City Mayor Michael O’Connor – who opposes the county’s participation in the program – said he and Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner issued a joint statement asking protesters to exercise their First Amendment rights peacefully.
“We have to prepare for these activities with the possibility that something could go sideways,” O’Connor said. There will be a stepped up police presence, and O’Connor said they will be ready to respond to whatever happens.
Downey said Unity Rally participants plan to be peaceful and stay at their rally, but she added they welcome people from the other side to come over to have respectful conversations about the issue.
Both rallies start at 2 p.m. Sunday.
Copyright 2019 by WMAL.com. All Rights Reserved. (Photo: @1ChuckJenkins via Twitter)