Religious Leaders Tackle Montgomery Police Policy On Immigrants

February 12, 2009

Author: Megan Miller

Source: Capital News Service

Maryland members of the Interfaith Immigration Coalition, which came to Capitol Hill Wednesday calling for comprehensive federal reform, criticized Montgomery County's toughening policy on illegal immigrant crime.

"We are called to act on what we preach, and to show that there are no strangers among us," said Rev. Joan Carter Rimbach, pastor of the First United Methodist Church of Hyattsville, which hosts a monthly legal clinic on immigration issues. "We're dealing with human lives here. With individuals and with families."

Montgomery County's new criminal policy, announced by County Executive Isiah Leggett Tuesday, calls for "anyone arrested and charged in Montgomery County for crimes of violence" or for illegal handgun possession to be reported to Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement for an immigration status check. Status questions could prompt deportation.

"This new policy can assist the county in helping to keep violent offenders off the streets," Leggett's announcement read. "We can accomplish this without our officers becoming federal immigration police or crossing the line into 'profiling' individuals based on their race or ethnicity."

"We believe that local enforcement of federal immigration laws is a bad idea," said Kelly O'Brien, a lawyer with the immigrant rights organization CASA of Maryland. O'Brien called Montgomery's new policy "the lesser of evils" compared with more aggressive measures elsewhere, including Frederick County.