The High Cost of Political Theatre
Rockville, MD -- This July, County Executive Mark Elrich proudly announced the most restrictive policy on non-cooperation with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in the D.C. metro area. At the time, I said that this was a “political stunt all about opposing a President he hates, even at the risk of the safety of Montgomery County residents." Sadly, Mr. Elrich has taken every opportunity since to prove me right.
As you might have expected of a policy created to justify political theatre, it was ill-defined and left our county’s law enforcement with no clear rules. At the time, Montgomery County’s Director of Public Information, Barry Hudson, was unable to define what if any exceptions there were to this policy of strict non-cooperation, as reported by ABC7. When asked, Mr. Hudson replied that his office was “working on answers”.
Only two days later, county law enforcement officials arrested two illegal immigrants for five counts of 2nd degree rape on an 11-year-old child. One of the Defendants, Mauricio Barrera-Navidad, was granted a $100,000 (post 10 percent) bond. Thus, despite ICE having lodged a detainer for him, he would have been released from custody if he had been able to pay 10% of the bond.
When asked to comment on these arrests, Mr. Hudson (whose salary costs county taxpayers $175,000 per year) shockingly placed the blame on United States Customs and Border Protection, saying that “if the system failed, it would have failed on the federal level. This is not the responsibility of the local government.”
Sadly, this tragedy of errors was just beginning. On July 14th, Mr. Elrich lied to the public, stating that the “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.” Mr. Elrich’s clumsy lie was revealed when the County Council issued its own statement on August 16th, admitting that there was an even more recent “new Executive Order for notification of the release of individuals charged with serious crimes”.
Clearly, this new modification to the executive order has not solved anything, since on August 13th, Rodrigo Castro-Montejo, another defendant charged with a 2nd degree rape, and in the country illegally, was released from county custody after paying a $1,000 surety bond. Jail officials made all of one phone call to the wrong number before releasing Mr. Castro-Montejo back into our community.
Is this a sign of Mr. Elrich’s new policy? To continue to make every effort to obstruct ICE while still leaving him the fig leaf, a pathetic pretense of cooperation? These are not hypothetical political debates. In the thirty days since the announcement of Mr. Elrich’s executive order, county law enforcement has commenced at least five rape prosecutions against defendants who are in this country illegally, with child victims in at least two cases.
In reference to the child victimized by Mr. Barrera-Navidad, the County Council stated, “we will ensure that the victim and her family receive the assistance and necessary support to overcome this tragic event in their lives”. Perhaps if they had not joined Mr. Elrich in proudly and publicly declaring Montgomery County a sanctuary for her attackers, this would never have been necessary.