Maryland: Policy of asking about immigration status raises ire in W. Md.
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Wed May 7 14:41:11 UTC 2008
Policy raises ire in W. Md.
Frederick deputies ask detainees about immigration status
By Kelly Brewington
May 7, 2008
Frederick County sheriff's deputies have become the first Maryland law
enforcement officers to check the immigration status of people they
arrest, a move authorities say is a necessary tool for policing, but
one that has sparked an outcry from advocates who say the policy is
costly and encourages ethnic profiling. CASA of Maryland, the state's
largest immigrant advocacy group, held a news conference yesterday at
which it released a report estimating the policy could cost the county
$3.2 million a year. Opponents called for an end to the program, which
is the result of an agreement signed Feb. 6 between the Frederick
County Sheriff's Department and U.S. Immigration and Customs
CASA's estimate of the cost of the policy took into account increased
police training, staffing, detention costs and the possibility of a
drain on the county's foster care system if immigrant parents are
detained. County Commissioner Charles A. Jenkins said later that he
doubted the veracity of CASA's figures and supports the sheriff's
efforts. He said the county is reimbursed by the federal government
for detaining immigrants.
"They're not knocking on doors, saying 'show me your papers,'" Jenkins
said. "Legal taxpayers do not need to worry about this. ... Illegal
immigration costs us a lot, and we have limited resources here. I am
not interested in becoming a sanctuary county."
The issue reflects intense debate over immigration in the county,
which has the fastest-growing immigrant population in Maryland. The
county's foreign-born population increased from 4 percent in 2000 to 9
percent in 2006, according to U.S. Census estimates, with the majority
of the influx being Latino.
In the fall, Jenkins proposed a law that would deny county services,
including schooling, to immigrants who entered the country illegally.
The measure failed. Then two weeks ago, commissioners proposed a
measure to require all county documents to be written in English only.
The effort failed, and instead commissioners adopted a largely
symbolic resolution proclaiming English as the county's primary
language of communication.
Kerry O'Brien, legal director at CASA, said immigrants have become
scapegoats in Frederick and in other places where restrictive local
immigration policies have been passed, such as Prince William County,
Va., where stringent immigration enforcement has ignited fierce
"Frederick is definitely the farthest out in its sentiment against
immigrants and basically showing little appreciation to the
contributions that immigrants have made, such as in the construction
boom," she said. "No one complains when immigrants contribute to the
economy, but all of a sudden, people have become organized around
blaming any particular problem on immigrants." During the
question-and-answer portion of the news conference, Frederick resident
Richard Schultz stunned immigration-rights advocates by launching into
personal complaints about illegal immigration in the county.
"What do you say to the burden on the typical American worker whose
wages are cut under by illegal aliens?" he said. "Illegal aliens
should be getting out of the country, going to the back of the line
and doing things the right way."
CASA officials, who were joined by the head of the Frederick NAACP,
church leaders and other local immigrant advocates, also warned the
policy could chill police-community relations and criticized Frederick
County Sheriff Charles "Chuck" Jenkins for signing the agreement
without holding a community meeting first.
Sheriff Jenkins declined to comment on the report, saying through a
spokesman that he wanted time to review it.
Since the agreement with ICE was signed, 16 corrections officers and
10 deputies have completed four weeks of training in two parts of the
policy, said Capt. Tim Clarke. The first allows corrections officers
to check the immigration status of anyone arrested. That portion of
the program began April 1 and has resulted in 14 inmates being
detained for further review and possible deportation by immigration
agents, Clarke said.
The second portion of the program, which allows deputies to ask the
immigration status of people when responding to a call for service,
has not started, he said.
Clarke said that in the past, if deputies believed a suspect was an
illegal immigrant, officers would call ICE agents in Baltimore to help
investigate the case. But often, the agents, short on staff, would not
be able to intervene, he said.
"It's another tool for law enforcement officers to use on the street,"
he said. "It's a resource for them, whereas we didn't have that
Rosibel David blames the policy for tearing apart her family and
creating fear for immigrants throughout Frederick County. Last Monday,
sheriff's deputies stopped and detained the man whom her 5-year-old
calls his father, Alejandro Rocha, on an immigration violation. He was
a passenger in a car that had been reported stolen, David said. The
family lost its main breadwinner, was evicted and forced to move in
with friends, relying on their kindness and financial support, David
David said when her son sees a police cruiser he cries to his mother,
"Is that the one who took my dad?"
kelly.brewington at baltsun.com
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