Montgomery County, Maryland Expands Extreme Sanctuary Policies
By Colton R. Overcash | July 2019
Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich (D) signed the so-called Promoting Community Trust Executive Order, which goes into effect on July 22. The executive order reaffirms the county’s previous zero-cooperation policy between local law enforcement and federal immigration authorities while extending it to cover all other county departments and employees. County Executive Elrich’s decision to issue the order at this time is particularly shocking in the wake of a recent high-profile gang-related murder in the county that might have been prevented if local authorities had cooperated with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Montgomery County is Maryland’s largest and most populous county.
Thanks to sanctuary policies adopted in 2014, 2016 and 2017, the county already prohibited its police and corrections departments from enforcing federal immigration laws and from honoring immigration detainers. County Executive Elrich’s executive order goes far beyond even those policies and does the following:
- Prohibits all county departments and employees from inquiring into a person’s immigration status
- Requires county departments to review and modify their data collection and information sharing policies to deny ICE access to its records and prevent employees from sharing information with federal enforcement officers
- Prohibits county departments from entering into any intergovernmental agreement or contract with federal immigration authorities
- Requires county departments to review all applications, questionnaires, interviews or other forms used in relation to public benefits and delete any questions regarding citizenship or immigration status other than those required by statute, order, federal law, or court order
- Prevents county departments and employees from denying a person’s application for employment or public benefits solely based on their citizenship or immigration status
- Prohibits county departments and employees from utilizing public resources to enforce federal immigration laws; and
- Punishes county employees for violating any provision of the executive order, with penalties possibly including suspension, reduction in rank, and termination from employment.
Montgomery County’s sanctuary policies are now even more extreme than those in New York City or California, which allow those jurisdictions to cooperate with ICE when illegal aliens are charged with certain serious crimes or when they have significant criminal histories. Alarmingly, Montgomery County’s sanctuary policy has no such exceptions.
County Executive Elrich said the executive order was necessary to assure the safety of all residents in the county, including more than 345,000 who are foreign-born. “Enforcing immigration laws is the sole responsibility of the federal government of the United States,” Elrich said. “It is not in the interest of Montgomery County citizens to utilize limited resources to facilitate the enforcement of civil immigration law,” he added. “Any perception that they [immigrants] feel unsafe undermines the public.
Acting Police Chief Marcus Jones agrees and says the executive order will not change the police department’s current practices or procedures. “We have no direct contact with ICE about any immigration issues,” Jones said. “We’re not doing any ICE operations in Montgomery County.”
As expected, open-borders groups are praising the decision as a “victory” for immigrant rights. “This is a critical first step that has come after many years of advocacy,” said CASA executive director Gustavo Torres. “It’s really appropriate we are sending a signal from county government that this a welcoming county government. We have everybody’s back. We’re not cooperating with ICE,” he added.
In a press release, Montgomery County Republican Party Chairman Alexander Bush said the executive order makes the county “less safe” and puts politics ahead of public safety. “County Executive Elrich’s political stunt is all about opposing a President he hates, even at the risk of the safety of Montgomery County residents, Bush said. [C]ooperation will only make Montgomery County safer,” he added.