Tag Archives: immigration

MoCo Deportation Defense Proposal in Danger of Falling Through

By Adam Pagnucco.

Montgomery County’s proposal for funding legal defense of people threatened by deportation appears to be in danger of falling through.  Below is a letter from the MoCo Deportation Defense Coalition outlining what has happened.


Dear Supporters of Deportation Defense Funding,

We are sorry to tell you that the County Council has acquiesced to the demands of the State’s Attorney, John McCarthy. The Council amended its special appropriation and added an extensive list of criminal convictions that would render a person ineligible for representation by the CAIR Coalition. This list, based on past convictions for which a person has already completed his/her sentence, includes misdemeanors and nonviolent offenses, not just serious felonies. In addition, the Council has acceded to McCarthy’s demands that there be almost no exceptions made to these criminal exclusions. This means that the CAIR Coalition cannot use County funds to challenge the deportation of a refugee or of someone who may be tortured upon return to their country. The resulting program would be far more restrictive than others around the country.

As a result, the CAIR Coalition is withdrawing its request for the money. The MoCo Deportation Defense Coalition supports CAIR’s decision and opposes the resolution in its current state. Join us at a press conference hosted by CASA and supporters on Monday at 1:30 pm in front of the State’s Attorney’s Office and come to the formal vote on the functionally-defunct resolution on Tuesday at 1:30 pm. Please read on for more information about why we support CAIR’s withdrawal and what you can do to show your opposition to the Council’s decision.

Why the MoCo Deportation Defense Coalition supports the CAIR Coalition’s refusal to participate in the County’s hobbled deportation defense special appropriation:

CAIR estimates that the restrictions would reduce the number of people who could be represented by approximately 70 percent. The remaining 30 percent would not necessarily be the County residents most likely to receive relief under immigration law. The restrictions would leave many County residents who could obtain relief from deportation if they had a lawyer, without one;

The Council’s program reflects an ill-informed and unjust approach to deportation defense funding that we should not support. Our criminal justice system has been shown to treat people of color and immigrants unfairly. An extensive exclusions list furthers the toxic narrative perpetuated by our President of immigrants as bad, undesirable, and irredeemable people. Deportation defense funding is about due process for all, so all people who qualify for relief under our harsh immigration laws can have a fair shot at getting it, regardless of their ability to pay for a lawyer;

The process through which the resolution was amended reflects a dangerous and undemocratic approach to policy-making. The County’s lead prosecutor, an elected official who is not a member of the County Council and has no expertise in immigration law, declared by fiat his requirements. McCarthy accepted almost none of the CAIR Coalition’s multiple attempts to compromise. Our Council members deferred to McCarthy despite letters and testimony by immigration experts, including former immigration judges and attorneys, arguing against criminal exclusions;

The Council’s proposed program is far more restrictive than others around the country; Baltimore’s publicly funded program has no criminal restrictions at all and Prince George’s County’s exclusions list is smaller than the list that the CAIR Coalition originally agreed to.

What Can You Do? Join Us:

Monday, May 21, 1:30 pm Press Conference @ 50 Maryland Avenue, Rockville (the Office of the State’s Attorney). Speakers will explain what happened and why John McCarthy’s involvement was inappropriate and unjust.

Tuesday, May 22, 1:30 pm Council Session to vote on the special appropriation @ 100 Maryland Avenue, Rockville (3rd Floor). We will stand silently and hold up our signs during the vote.

Bring signs to both, suggestions include: Deportation Defense: Due Process For All; No MoCo McCarthyism; Immigrants are not political pawns; No sham votes; John McCarthy Is Not A Councilmember; Due Process For All, Not For Some

Share this email with other deportation defense supporters!

We promise to keep fighting for deportation defense funding in Montgomery County with the new County Council and with private funders. We hope you will continue to join us in this fight!

In Solidarity,

The MoCo Deportation Defense Coalition


Deportation Legal Defense is the Montgomery Way

By Seth Grimes.

Someone asked me earlier this week, “What is Montgomery County doing really well?”

My answer: We are a welcoming, compassionate, and inclusive community. That’s the Montgomery Way.

The Montgomery Way: Our $312 million Health & Human Services budget funds an array of programs that assist our most vulnerable neighbors. Our “inclusionary zoning” approach to land use has made the County an affordable housing leader. And we stand with our immigrant neighbors, including undocumented individuals, in the face of Trump Administration attacks and Republican congressional complicity.

Let’s credit County Executive Ike Leggett with shaping this ethos, which includes a policy of public-safety non-cooperation with federal immigration authorities. Yet attacks on immigrants are intensifying, nationally and here in the Washington DC area. We must respond. Let’s consider two ways we can strengthen local protections.

Montgomery County should fund deportation legal defense and pass a Community Trust Act that formalizes ICE non-cooperation as County law, a step promoted by CASA de Maryland.

Momentum toward these local steps has been building over the course of Donald Trump’s year in office. A start: I recall a productive Takoma Park Mobilization meeting with County Councilmembers Marc Elrich and George Leventhal last February at my office, to broach both ideas. (I’m a Mobilization co-founder; the Mobilization grew out of a November 11, 2016 Rally for Community, taking place the Friday after Trump’s election, that I initiated to show solidarity with immigrant and Muslim neighbors.)

Progress can take time, however; in the last year, the threat to undocumented neighbors has only grown. It’s time to act.

A Montgomery County Deportation Defense Coalition is pushing for action, for funding in the County’s FY19 budget. The Coalition’s argument: “Immigrants in deportation proceedings are not entitled to court-appointed counsel. This means that immigrants who cannot afford to hire an attorney must represent themselves. Per a nationwide study by the University of Pennsylvania School of Law, represented immigrants are 5.5 times more likely to win their case than non-represented immigrants.” Implicit is that it is our collective duty to stand with and support our neighbors facing deportation.

Public deportation legal defense funding could support and expand the work done by organizations such as Kids In Need of Defense (KIND), which seeks to ensure that every child in the immigration system has a lawyer. Ayuda and the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights (CAIR) Coalition also provide legal services to individuals facing deportation. We’re not talking about a new assignment for the County Attorney.

There’s more we can do. A new Maryland Legislative Coalition, working closely with ACLU PeoplePower, is backing the Maryland SAFE Act, currently before the General Assembly. SAFE stands for Supporting All Families Everywhere; PeoplePower is an initiative dedicated to grassroots action in defense of civil liberties. The SAFE Act, HB 1461, was introduced Delegate Ana Sol Gutierrez. It would limit Immigration cooperation by state authorities and provide immunity and indemnification for officials who do not cooperate. SAFE is another form of deportation legal defense. I testified for 2017’s failed Maryland Law Enforcement and Governmental Trust Act, and I support this year’s very similar SAFE Act in addition to local, Montgomery County action.

Deportation legal defense is the Montgomery Way, a set of concrete steps we can and should take to ensure that ours remains a welcoming, compassionate, and inclusive community. The Trump Administration is targeting our immigrant neighbors. Deportation legal defense is an important way we can stand up and fight back.

Seth Grimes is a candidate for County Council At-Large.


Hogan Demagogues on Immigration to Raise Money

By Adam Pagnucco.

Governor Larry Hogan is now sending out fundraising letters for his reelection campaign.  Much of the language is consistent with what we have heard from the Governor before and would be standard for many Republican candidates.  But the solicitation ends with a fear-mongering assault on immigration that is perfectly consistent with the GOP in the Era of Trump.

Hogan’s four-page letter starts as you might expect.  He discusses “failed liberal leadership” and people being “sick and tired of politics as usual.”  He refers to himself as “simply a small businessman, concerned citizen and lifelong Marylander who was fed up with the never ending tax and fee increases and status quo politicians in Annapolis.”  He then goes on to describe how he changed all that by passing three budgets with no tax increases, reducing or eliminating fees and getting rid of “job-killing regulations.”  Amusingly, he claims, “I was not a politician when I ran for Governor in 2014… and I am not one now.”  So far, this is unremarkable.  This has been the Governor’s message for years and we would expect this to show up in a fundraising letter.

But then he closed with this.

We have to fight back.  Maryland’s future depends on it.

With so much at stake, I am reaching out to committed commonsense conservatives from across the state.  You are one [sic] our state’s most loyal activists and I could really use your help.  Will you please do me the honor of joining my team to help keep moving Maryland forward and help me push back against a far left agenda and the worst instincts of an increasingly liberal and out-of-touch State Legislature?

How out of touch are they?  Instead of focusing on positive change and the safety of our citizens, they have instead been focusing their efforts on trying to make our state a safe haven for criminals here illegally.

Let me be very clear: we cannot allow Maryland to become a sanctuary state.  Our local law enforcement should be doing more – not less – to make sure criminals here illegally are turned over to federal immigration officials.  The rule of law must come first and we will do whatever we can to stop any so-called “sanctuary bills” that would limit how jails and police could assist federal authorities.

Astonishingly, this letter was sent to a Democrat in Montgomery County.

Hogan is not telling the truth about the Maryland Trust Act, which passed the House of Delegates but not the Senate.  The bill that passed the House would not have prevented jails from turning criminals over to ICE and it would not have forbidden counties from participating in the federal government’s 287(g) program to identify criminals wanted by ICE.  It would have prevented jails from holding inmates past their sentence dates without a court warrant, which simply restates the policy followed by Hogan’s own state-run jail in Baltimore.  It would also have prevented police from questioning people on the street about their immigration status, something that happened in Bel Air just a few months ago.  Does Hogan favor detaining people past their sentence dates and having local police randomly check residents’ immigration status without cause?  Perhaps he does since he inaccurately attacks this legislation as a “sanctuary bill.”

The broader point is that Hogan is using immigration demagoguery and fear-mongering to raise money.  That is very different from the image he cultivates in public of being non-partisan, non-ideological and uninterested in divisive social issues.  In this fundraising letter, we see the Real Hogan away from the cameras and the press podium – a politician willing to exploit fear and xenophobia to get reelected.

Our current President would no doubt approve.


Hogan Exploits Rape for Politics

By Adam Pagnucco.

Governor Larry Hogan is now exploiting the rape of a Rockville high school student to get a political edge over General Assembly Democrats.  It’s a clearly deplorable tactic.  But will it work?

Two big stories are colliding at the moment to further inflame the volatile issue of how to deal with illegal immigration.  First, the House of Delegates has passed a version of the Maryland Law Enforcement and Trust Act, a bill to limit state and local cooperation with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) so that immigrant communities will not hide from police for fear of arbitrary deportation.  Second, two students at Rockville High School have been arrested for raping a 14-year-old at the school and were subsequently alleged by ICE to be present in the country illegally.

Governor Hogan reacted with the Facebook post below, saying:

The post garnered 700 shares and 500 comments in its first five hours, accomplishing its purpose of throwing gasoline on the fire of the immigration debate.

The implication of the Governor’s post is that Montgomery County does not currently cooperate with federal authorities.  But in fact, it does.  The Washington Post’s Bill Turque summarized the county’s immigration policy a month ago:

Montgomery police operate under a 2009 directive that bars officers from conducting “indiscriminate questioning” of suspects, witnesses or prisoners about immigration status. Once in custody, all prisoners are fingerprinted, and arrest information goes into state databases, where it is available to ICE. If the agency identifies an undocumented prisoner, it can send the county a “detainer” notice, asking that the person remain in custody for at least 48 hours beyond the scheduled release date.

The county complied with detainers until 2014, when the Maryland attorney general’s office issued an opinion advising localities that they could be liable for damages by holding prisoners past their release date.

Since then, Montgomery officials said, the county honors detainers only if they are supported by a federal court order or warrant. It will also provide ICE publicly available release dates of undocumented immigrants who have committed felonies and whom the agency is seeking to deport.

The county has released hundreds of prisoners to ICE since 2012, though the pace of releases has dropped since the county stopped honoring 48-hour detainers.  The amended version of the House-passed Trust Act resembles county policy.  On the Rockville High School rape suspects, County Executive Ike Leggett said, “The county — consistent with our longstanding policy — will cooperate fully with ICE to see that the two are deported to their countries of origin.”

Why would Hogan insinuate that Montgomery County does not cooperate with federal law enforcement to protect its citizens?  Hogan knows that there is little support in the community for protecting violent criminals from deportation.  A new CNN poll finds that 60% of Americans believe the government should be “developing a plan to allow those in the U.S. illegally who have jobs to become legal residents,” but it also finds that 78% of Americans believe that “the government should attempt to deport all people currently living in the country illegally who have been convicted of other crimes while living in the U.S.”  Big majorities of every demographic group measured support the latter statement, including 64% of Democrats.

Depicting Maryland’s largest local jurisdiction as soft on crime is bad enough.  Exploiting a rape for political gain is even worse.  Such tactics expose just how hard the Governor can throw his elbows in partisan combat.  Forget about engaging with General Assembly leaders to develop good public policy; the Governor has never been interested in that.  But the cold political truth is this:

If Hogan can get away with characterizing Democrats as protectors of rapists and other criminals, he wins.