ROCKVILLE, Md. (WDVM) – Montgomery County remains divided over immigration policies after opposing rallies in Rockville Friday morning.
Those rallying on the east side of Maryland Ave were vouching for reform immigration policy reform, while those on the west side stood with the county executive and county council.
An executive order from executive Marc Elrich limits law enforcement’s ability to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, also known as ICE. This summer, several undocumented immigrants were arrested and later released from custody after being charged with sex crimes.
Elrich said, “These were the policies of the previous administration. I didn’t change them, there were people who wanted them to be clearer. I’m baffled by the sudden angst.”
“If Elrich would like to keep the policy vague so he can tell his supporters “we’re still not cooperating with ICE,” we should have clear rules so that if they are bad rules, he can be held accountable for them,” said Alexander Alan Bush, the chairman of the Montgomery County Republican Party.
Those on both sides wanted to clear up misconceptions about their stance on the issue.
“This is not a rally against immigrants, it’s a rally against illegal immigrants, it’s a rally against county policy that releases dangerous illegal immigrants back into the community when they’ve been arrested,” said Bill Richbourg, who stood with those on the east side.
“There’s a sense that what we’re about is somehow not respecting the law and that’s the last thing we’re doing,” said Lee Hopkins, who stood with those on the west side.
The county council responded to criticism regarding the county’s relationship with ICE.
“It’s not our job to do ICE’s job. As a courtesy, when folks are released from our facility, we notify ICE when that’s going to happen, they have an opportunity and often do pick people up who are undocumented,” said councilmember Will Jawando.
“If you are in Montgomery County and you commit a crime, you will be prosecuted. That has lead to Montgomery County being the safest areas in the entire D.C. region. So, the people across the street can spread lies and misinformation but the truth is, Montgomery County remains a safe place to live, work and play,” said councilmember Evan Glass.
As for common ground, both sides of the debate emphasized public safety as a priority.
A block of Maryland Ave in Rockville was closed off for more than five hours to accommodate the rallies.