Montgomery County Council weakens resolution on Secure Communities
Casa of Maryland says it supports wording
The Montgomery County Council says it will support a federal deportation program for illegal immigrants, if it is implemented appropriately.
The position, which the council advocated Tuesday in a resolution, represents an about-face for the legislative body, which just days ago was considering a condemnation of the federal program as promoting racial profiling and crime.
The resolution, which passed unanimously Tuesday, states the council remains concerned but encourages "public safety officials to work closely with (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) to ensure that the Secure Communities program is implemented consistent with its stated purpose and goals."
The federal government has said it intends to bring Secure Communities to Montgomery on Sept. 27.
The council passed the weakened resolution Tuesday, despite requests from County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) and Police Chief J. Thomas Manger to delay the vote.
Supporters, including representatives from Casa of Maryland, clapped after the vote and also gathered outside of the council building in Rockville to show their support.
However, many said they were unaware of the changes the council had made to the resolution that morning.
Councilman George L. Leventhal (D-At large) of Takoma Park described the resolution the council adopted Tuesday as a "complete 180" from the resolution that first was introduced April 26.
Gustavo Torres, executive director of Casa, said Tuesday the council's intention was to support the federal program's deportation of dangerous criminals not all undocumented immigrants.
In announcing her support for the resolution, which she drafted, Councilwoman Nancy Navarro (D-Dist. 4) of Silver Spring said the county has no choice but to go forward with the mandatory Secure Communities.
"This is not a volunteer program," she said, adding she has heard from some people asking the council to block its implementation. That is not possible, she said Tuesday.
Leggett has said he will follow the federal government's mandate.
"I don't know what choice we have," he said last week.
Currently, Montgomery County and Baltimore city are the only Maryland jurisdictions not participating in the program.
Secure Communities scans and stores the fingerprints of anyone brought to the county jail in a database sent to the FBI and ICE, which check to see if the person is wanted for a federal crime or listed as an illegal immigrant.
If people are found to be in the country illegally, they can be turned over to ICE officials and deported.
Supporters say the program will make the county safer, while opponents, including those on the council, say they are concerned it could lead to more crime and racial profiling.
Police spokesman Capt. Paul Starks said Manger requested Navarro postpone the resolution so he could speak with ICE about how the program would be implemented locally.
Starks said Manger has taken no position on the resolution or the deportation program.
He has said Secure Communities would not require police officers to do anything differently.
Lacefield said Manger questioned whether the resolution is the proper approach given that Secure Communities is federally mandated.