Sanctuary County Blasts Critics After Arrests of 7 Illegal Immigrants on Rape, Sex Abuse Charges

September 6, 2019 Updated: September 10, 2019

A sanctuary county in Maryland hit back at critics following the arrests of seven illegal aliens in the span of a month on rape and/or sexual abuse charges.

More of the sexual abuse arrests in that span, late July to late August, may have been illegal immigrants, but Montgomery County does not release the nationality or immigration status of its alleged criminals. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a federal agency, confirmed the status of the seven aliens.

Five men from El Salvador and two from Honduras are accused of a number of crimes, including two who allegedly raped an 11-year-old girl; one who allegedly raped his 15-year-old stepdaughter; and one who allegedly accosted a woman as she entered her apartment building, raped her, and left her for dead.

In a new statement blasting critics, the Montgomery County Council said that “rape and sexual assault are despicable acts of violence and aggression that unfortunately occur across all cultures and communities” and that the alleged rapes and sex assaults that have occurred in the county “are horrendously vile acts.”

A statement released late Sept. 6, 2019, by the Montgomery County Council. (Montgomery County)

The county then blamed some news outlets and officials, including President Donald Trump and one of the top immigration officials in the nation.

“There has been a lot inaccurate information spread by the White House, President Trump, Acting USCIS Director Ken Cuccinelli, local and national conservative news outlets and neo-Nazi sympathizers regarding our criminal justice system and its process. These individuals and organizations should be ashamed for spreading false information seeking to establish a baseless, illogical and xenophobic connection between a person’s failure to obtain legal status and their propensity to commit a sex crime,” the council said.

“Montgomery County has earned a reputation as a great place to live, work and raise a family, not despite of, but because of who we are. We are teachers, scholars, scientists, engineers and our small businesses power the engines of our economy. We will not be defined by a racist paintbrush designed to stoke unreasonable fear and tensions in our county.”

Cuccinelli, the acting director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, has repeatedly condemned Montgomery County on his social media pages.

“More sanctuary Montgomery county consequences… sad and tragic,” he said after one of the arrests.

“Tragedy in sanctuary county Montgomery County Md… again,” he said after one of the arrests.

At one point, Cuccinelli appeared on Fox 5 to discuss the issue. “I joined @FitzFox5DC yesterday to discuss how Montgomery County’s policies regarding @ICEgov have put politics over people—and the consequences are tragic, sad, and, worst of all, preventable,” he wrote, alerting supporters to the interview.

He also shared a blog post written by former immigration judge Andrew Arthur, who said the arrests in Montgomery County “underscore the hypocrisy of sanctuary policies.”

Montgomery County, Maryland sits outside Washington, the nation’s capital, and is also located near Baltimore, Maryland. (Google Maps)

Executive Order

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich said in an executive order (pdf) in July that county agencies are not allowed to ask people about their immigration status or, in some cases, help Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

“It is especially important that all county residents feel safe contacting police and other county law enforcement officials without fear that such contact could lead to negative consequences for themselves or their family members,” he wrote. “Any perception that such contact could lead to negative immigration consequences for an individual or member of their family undermines that goal and erodes public safety.”

“Enforcing federal immigration law is the sole responsibility of the federal government of the United States and it is not in the interests of Montgomery County to utilize its limited community resources to facilitate enforcement of federal civil immigration laws,” he added.

Elrich said immigration detainers, which ICE places on people who officials believe are illegally in the country, are not something Montgomery County will be involved with unless there are accompanying judicial warrants.

Montgomery County introduced other sanctuary policies in 2014 (pdf), 2016 (pdf), and 2017 (pdf). Press releases from Montgomery County do not show the suspects’ immigration status or their country of origin.

After the arrests of the two men who allegedly raped an 11-year-old girl, Elrich said in a statement that “the alleged crime is horrible and I am confident that justice will be served in this case.”

“After determining that the suspects are undocumented immigrants, Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) requested that the County notify them if and when the two men are scheduled to be released from custody for any reason. The County will do so,” he said.

“The new Promoting Community Trust Executive Order has not changed the County’s policy on cooperating with ICE requests for notification of the release of individuals charged with serious crimes. The County’s Department of Correction and Rehabilitation will notify ICE if the suspects become eligible for release, but until then they will remain in our custody until the local legal process is complete.”

Montgomery County Republican Party Chairman Alexander Bush told The Epoch Times in an email that the executive order is a political stunt that “left our county’s law enforcement with no clear rules.”

An Aug. 27, 2019, statement from Montgomery County Republican Party Chairman Alexander Bush. (The Epoch Times)

Montgomery County has not responded to a request for comment from The Epoch Times regarding its policies and possible adjustments in the wake of the arrests. But Elrich told WTOP that he might change the part of the executive order that prevents ICE agents from entering some parts of the county jail. The restriction means an ICE agent has to wait in the jail’s lobby to take custody of a detainee.

“We are going to look at that because there are questions that people have raised about not just the safety of ICE officials, but the safety of anybody else who might be out there (in the lobby),” said Elrich.

Elrich was asked about releasing one of the aliens on bail even though the man was charged with rape. ICE issued a detainer, directing the county to hold the man for federal officials, but the county said it called an ICE agent and he did not pick up. ICE later said the agent was off-duty.

Elrich said the release of the man was a court decision and said the county is not to blame.

“If people think we’re just releasing people, that’s the thing that offends me most of all … I haven’t released anybody,” Elrich said. “Somebody in the court system said, ‘You served your time, we dropped the charges or you met bail, and therefore you’re free to go.’ And I don’t have the power to say ‘No, you’re not free to go.’”

Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber
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