WASHINGTON (WMAL) – As the national debate over illegal immigration heats up, people on both sides rallied Friday in front of the Montgomery County Council office building. ICE supporters and immigrant rights advocacy groups gathered on opposing sides of Maryland Ave. separated by a row of metal barriers and radically different ideologies.
The dueling rallies came after news that seven illegal immigrants living in the county were recently charged with sexual assault, including a number of cases involving young children, and the county executive signed a new executive order barring county employees from cooperating with ICE. Perhaps the incident that drew the biggest outcry – including from Acting Director of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services office and former attorney general of Virginia, Ken Cuccinelli – was the arrest of Mauricio Barrera-Navidad, 29, of Damascus, and Carlos Palacios-Amaya, 28, of Gaithersburg, on charges of second-degree rape for allegedly raping an 11-year-old girl on separate occasions in 2018.
For one Montgomery County woman on the pro-ICE side the issue hits close to home. She said her neighbor’s daughter was killed by a drunk illegal immigrant, and she’s sick of illegal immigrants in the county.
“No one’s against immigration. We’re for legal immigration, but Rockville, these county council has made us a sanctuary city, and we’re getting overrun,” she said.
County executive Marc Elrich said in a statement earlier this week that there is a lot of confusion.
“These people are ranting about being a sanctuary city…the executive…the executive’s people…the president’s people are ranting about it. Cuccinelli’s ranting about it. I’m not a sanctuary city folks,” Elrich told WMAL after Friday’s rally.
When asked what distinguishes Montgomery County from a sanctuary city, Elrich said there are times when the county cooperates with ICE. If an illegal immigrant charged with a serious crime is going to be released from custody, he said the county calls ICE. He defined a serious crimes as murder, rape, assault, sexual assault, burglary and anything with a gun or weapon.
While there is outrage over the recent rape cases, Elrich said those cases don’t tell the whole story.
“All you see is the immigration rapes. There are, there were 500 something rape cases last year, rape and molestation cases, at least accusations, but if you look at our trend over the last three years, the number of these crimes is going down,” Elrich said.
Montgomery County resident David Wilson said he and other ICE supporters were not protesting the immigrant rights advocates standing on the other side of the street but rather the county council and Elrich.
“He has a responsibility as an elected official to uphold his oath of office, and he’s not doing it,” Wilson said.
Elrich argued that the county’s policies keep people safe by encouraging illegal immigrants to report crimes without fear of being deported.
Elrich said the county should not be condemned for letting illegal immigrants charged with crimes out of their custody when ICE does the same thing.
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