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August 12, 2020

IRLI investigation finds Montgomery County’s cooperation with ICE “a joke”

WASHINGTON—After elected officials in Montgomery County, Md., announced that they had reversed their non-cooperation policy with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) as a result of public pressure from a slew of sexual crimes by illegal aliens, an investigation by the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) shows that the sanctuary county is not acting in good faith to notify ICE when illegal aliens charged with crimes are released into the community.

Through data obtained from the county, IRLI’s investigation found that while local officials had pledged to cooperate with ICE agents and to allow them in identified areas of detention centers, they are only giving ICE agents extremely small windows of time to arrive at their facilities, which means dangerous illegal aliens are being released to the community before ICE agents can arrive to assume custody of them.   

In one of the most flagrant examples of this practice, the county gave ICE 28 minutes of notice before releasing into the community an illegal alien charged with second-degree rape and sexual abuse. When ICE issues a request to detain an illegal alien in custody, it typically asks the local law enforcement agency to notify ICE and hold the alien for at least 48 hours.  

Timestamps obtained by IRLI show that Montgomery County officials gave very abrupt and inadequate notifications. Since the county announced its policy change calling for greater cooperation with ICE, it has booked at least 84 criminal aliens subjected to ICE detainers since November 1, 2019 (when the policy change was announced) and June 5, 2020. Of those, 56 ICE detainers were deemed “valid.” Among these “valid” detainers, IRLI found at least eight examples of aliens being released after the county gave less than a four-hour notification.

When contacted by IRLI for a clarification on the definition of a “valid” detainer, a spokesperson for the county said only that the “Department of Correction and Rehabilitation honors ICE detainers received for undocumented individuals, charged or convicted of serious crimes.” However, the spokesperson did not respond to a subsequent request asking for what constitutes a “serious” crime. 

“Montgomery County claims to be cooperating with ICE, but the implementation of this policy is a joke,” said Dale L. Wilcox, executive director of general counsel of IRLI. “The data suggests a very cynical attempt to claim cooperation while doing the bare minimum to uphold it. The losers in this are the residents of Montgomery County, where aliens charged with serious crimes roam free and avoid removal from the country they may deserve.”

In such situations, ICE agents usually travel from the agency’s Baltimore field office to pick up aliens from Montgomery County jails. The Baltimore-Washington area has some of the nation’s most congested roads. Even under ideal traffic conditions, a drive between Baltimore and a Montgomery County city like Rockville can take more than 45 minutes.

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich signed into law the “Promoting Community Trust Executive Order” in July 2019. While the county was already considered a sanctuary jurisdiction as it did not honor ICE detainer requests, the new order further restricted ICE’s ability to catch criminal aliens by prohibiting county law enforcement from asking an individual about their immigration status and largely barred them from cooperating with ICE agents. Shortly after the announcement, the county arrested illegal aliens in a slew of rape and sexual assault cases, with underage girls victimized in a number of incidents.

After an exhaustive study of crime data, IRLI in 2019 ranked Montgomery County seventh in its list of America’s Ten Worst Sanctuary Communities.

For additional information, contact: Brian Lonergan • 202-232-5590 • blonergan@irli.org

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