Montgomery County is taking measures to educate immigrants on their rights in response to tweets from President Trump that federal agents could be conducting raids in major cities for families that have been ordered deported.
Trump promised on Saturday to delay Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s deportation sweeps for two weeks to allow Democrats and Republicans in Congress to reach a bipartisan compromise on immigration reform.
At the request of Democrats, I have delayed the Illegal Immigration Removal Process (Deportation) for two weeks to see if the Democrats and Republicans can get together and work out a solution to the Asylum and Loophole problems at the Southern Border. If not, Deportations start!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 22, 2019
One week ago, he threatened that sweeps could begin last weekend.
County Council President Nancy Navarro said at a Monday morning news conference that the county put in place a “county action crisis response plan” in anticipation of ICE raids two years ago, shortly after Trump was elected.
She said the police department has a policy of not cooperating with ICE, with a few exceptions for violent crimes.
“Our resources are targeted to work on public safety issues and not federal enforcement work,” she said.
Over the weekend, county police tweeted they would not be participating in any ICE raids.
“It is against our long-standing policy as this is a national issue and not a local issue. We have not received any requests from the federal government or ICE for their planned enforcement nor do we anticipate being informed as to their plans,” the department tweeted.
In reference to President Trump’s recent tweets and media reports, the Montgomery County Department of Police will not participate with ICE regarding any immigration enforcement efforts next week or at any other time.
— Montgomery County Department of Police (@mcpnews) June 22, 2019
There are an estimated 275,000 undocumented immigrants in Maryland, according to one estimate from the Pew Research Center, and several advocacy groups said last week they were increasing education outreach.
Navarro said the county is distributing “know your rights” literature in public facilities in several different languages.
The county’s Charles W. Gilchrist Immigration Center has featured a flyer from the American Civil Liberties Union on its website that instructs residents not to open the door for ICE agents but to ask them why they are there. The flyer also instructs residents to ask law enforcement officials if they have a warrant to enter their home and of their right to remain silent if they are detained.
Navarro reminded reporters that the County Council earmarked more than $370,000 in funding for legal representation for immigrants facing deportation who can’t afford an attorney.
Additionally, the council approved two separate $600,000-plus grants in the fiscal 2020 budget for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Greater Washington and the Latino immigrant advocacy organization CASA de Maryland, both of which include free legal services.
Montgomery County Public Schools released a statement over the weekend stating that the school system “had not received indication” that it would be targeted as part of ICE’s enforcement efforts, and that a 1982 Supreme Court decision prohibits the denial of education to students based on immigration status.
“Our schools do not require students or their families to provide any information about their immigration status, and MCPS staff are not required to report undocumented students to ICE,” the statement read.
Navarro said despite the resources in the county available to immigrants, the president’s tweets will result in several uncomfortable conversations in the immigrant community.
“For a lot of parents, how do you designate the guardian of your child if you have U.S. born children and you are deported? What happens? Does that child go into foster care? These are real life conversations that I cannot even imagine how you have with an elementary school child? But unfortunately you have to have them,” she said.
County Executive Marc Elrich also has reiterated the county’s position of not inquiring about immigration status. During a meeting of the nonpartisan Montgomery County Taxpayer’s League earlier this month, Elrich was questioned about the policy.
“How much population is illegal that we’re paying for in the schools?” asked one woman.
Elrich replied that he didn’t know since the school system doesn’t inquire.
“[Even] if I had the number I still have to educate every child in this county,” he said. “I’m not going to have people homeless. There’s nothing to be gained by not educating people and not housing people …. I am not going to have people without healthcare. I’m sure you don’t want people without healthcare.”
The woman replied that she agreed but “would rather citizens come here legally.” Elrich replied that the majority of county residents were not supporters of the president and that they simply had a difference of opinion.
“You’re outside what I think is the mainstream in this county on these issues,” he said.
Dan Schere can be reached at Daniel.firstname.lastname@example.org