Gaithersburg Police Will Not Seek Illegal Immigrants

The Gaithersburg Police Department has no plans to assist the federal government in a renewed effort to catch and deport illegal immigrants.

The statement echoes a recent assertion from county leaders, which attempted to allay the deportation fears of some in Montgomery County’s substantial Central American population.

On Jan. 4, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson announced the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had apprehended and planned to deport 121 illegal immigrants, and that additional raids were in the works. ICE has actively sought, and is continuing to actively seek, agreements with local law enforcement agencies to participate in these efforts.

In response to the ICE plan, on Jan. 11 Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett and the entire Montgomery County Council issued a joint statement asserting that county law enforcement would not be part of those efforts and urging the county’s immigrant population to continue following normal routines.

“We in Montgomery County, especially our public safety officers, have worked extremely hard to build trust with our immigrant population. We are convinced this is the key to reducing crime and building a thriving, welcoming community where all can live in peace,” the statement read in part. “We are very concerned that any federal enforcement actions in our county not undermine this trust and threaten public safety in our community. … To the members of our Montgomery County community who are justifiably concerned about the federal government’s most recent deportation actions, we encourage you to go about your daily activities free of fear.”

Those sentiments were echoed by the Gaithersburg Police Department, which said it has no plans to partner with ICE for any enforcement efforts around immigration.

“The Gaithersburg Police Department has not been contacted nor do we have any involvement in the enforcement of federal immigration laws,” said Dan Lane, public information officer for the Gaithersburg Police Department. “We value the diversity of our community and are only concerned with people that are involved in criminal activity. As such, the Gaithersburg Police Department is not and will not partner with ICE to enforce immigration laws.”

When asked to comment on the county statement, Gaithersburg Mayor Jud Ashman said in an email that immigration enforcement is “not even remotely a city matter.

“We are not authorized to carry out enforcement of federal immigration policy,” Ashman wrote. “So I honestly don’t feel that the city should be asserting itself one way or another on the county executive’s statement.”

Although local police departments are not typically involved in such efforts, ICE has for years established working relationships with local law enforcement agencies toward the goal of identifying and deporting illegal immigrants. Its latest initiative on this front, the Priority Enforcement Program, was established in late 2014 “to work with state and local law enforcement to take custody of individuals who pose a danger to public safety before those individuals are released into our communities.”

According to ICE statistics, the agency has agreements with 32 local law enforcement agencies in 16 states, including the Frederick County Sherriff’s Office in Maryland.