Montgomery, DC vow not to cooperate with ICE; Fairfax, not so much

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Local governments are wrestling with how to deal with the federal government’s crackdown on undocumented immigrants. DC Mayor Muriel Bowser vowed last month that the District would “stand shoulder to shoulder with our immigrant neighbors” and refuse to cooperate with efforts by Immigration and Customers Enforcement agents to round up migrants.

Yesterday, Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich signed the Promoting Community Trust Executive Order, which prohibits county officials from asking people about their immigration status and making threats based on citizenship. Elrich said county employees are forbidden from coordinating with immigration officers with the purpose of detaining illegal immigrants.

“Enforcing immigration law is the sole responsibility of the federal government of the United States,” said Elrich. “It is not in the interest of Montgomery County to utilize its limited resources to facilitate the enforcement of civil immigration law.”

Clear as …

Also yesterday, Fairfax County erected an elaborate (if graphically obscure) webpage headlined “Immigrants in Fairfax County.” In contrast to the clear and outspoken positions of Bowser and Elrich, the county page opens with this rather mild statement: “The county has received several inquiries about federal changes in policies or procedures regarding immigrants.”

It does make clear, however, that Fairfax is not declaring itself a “sanctuary.”

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has not designated Fairfax County as a sanctuary county. Fairfax cooperates to the fullest extent required by federal, state or local law with any law enforcement agency, including ICE, requesting criminal law enforcement assistance. The federal courts have determined that the enforcement of civil immigration laws is a federal responsibility. Fairfax County seeks to protect the federal and state constitutional rights of all persons, including immigrants.

The page notes that on April 4, 2017, the board of supervisors passed a resolution stating, among other things, that the county “does hereby affirm our strong commitment to maintaining a community culture that values and celebrates the similarities as well as the differences among our neighbors.”

“Fairfax County is a welcoming and accepting community where residents of all backgrounds deserve to feel respected and safe. It is important that we, as local leaders, speak out when our constituents are concerned regarding policies or practices that may affect them. We are a safe, diverse and caring community, and if that harmony is threatened, I believe we have a duty to speak out and clearly articulate our values,” supervisors chairman Sharon Bulova said when the 2017 resolution was passed.

The page does include information about legal representative for immigrants, a list of hotlines and a “Know Your Rights” section.

 

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Truman Lewis
A former reporter and bureau chief, Truman Lewis has covered presidential campaigns, state politics and stories ranging from organized crime to environmental and consumer protection.