Immigration Supporters, Foes Shout at Each Other Across a Rockville Street

Immigration supporters across the street from the County Council building in Rockville Friday. Photo by Glynis Kazanjian

Hundreds of protesters representing the two sides of the polarizing immigration issue stood face-to-face in Rockville Friday with only metal barriers and a police-lined street separating them.

The dual protests staged outside the Montgomery County Council office building were prompted by an ICE-related executive order signed by County Executive Marc Elrich (D) in July that preceded a recent string of sexual assaults allegedly committed by undocumented residents.

Anti-immigration demonstrators said they were pushing back against Elrich’s written directive limiting federal immigration agents’ contacts with undocumented residents accused of a crime until they’ve gone through the county’s judicial process.

Protesters supporting immigrants’ rights argue that all residents in the county should be treated equally.

Under Elrich’s directive, Department of Corrections personnel are only to contact ICE officials when they learn that an incarcerated immigrant will be released from jail – and only if the suspect was charged with a “serious” crime, such as rape or murder.

Elrich is working on a redefined list of “serious” offenses, which he hopes to share soon, a county spokesman said.

ICE officials are also prohibited from entering non-public spaces within a government facility, constraining their efforts to detain an individual.

Elrich’s philosophy – and policy – is every person in the county should be treated equitably, regardless of their immigration status.

“The basic idea is before we call ICE and say this person is available, the [arrestee] will go through the criminal justice system,” county spokesman Neil Greenberger said. “Our role and our relationship with ICE starts after an individual goes through the criminal justice system.”

Some protesters say the county executive’s directive has turned Montgomery into a sanctuary county.

“The rights of citizens has to trump the rights of illegal aliens,” Help Save Maryland Director Brad Botwin said to a cheering crowd. “Elected officials are on notice.”

Montgomery County police stand in front of the County Council building Friday as opponents of the county’s immigration policies protest. Photo by Glynis Kazanjian

A 54-year-old Rockville native, who didn’t want to be identified, asked when county officials plan to draw the line.

“The issue is, they’re releasing criminals on the street,” the woman said. “They already have one strike against them, they’re here illegally. Then they commit a crime, that’s two – only to be released to the public? When do you draw the line?”

But Elrich pushes back on the term.

He says because the county cooperates with ICE on some level, it cannot be deemed a sanctuary county.

“There is no law, no rule or definition of a sanctuary city [or county],” Elrich said. “But to some extent it’s about cooperation.”

Elrich said the executive order he put in place matches the unwritten policies practiced by the county before he and the new County Council came into office last December.

As protesters opposing the county’s policy chanted, “USA, USA,” the demonstrators on the other side of the street countered with, “We are the USA.”

The pro-ICE supporters brought big guns to the rally, figuratively speaking.

President Trump’s former aide Sebastian Gorka was in the crowd, along with conservative personality Michelle Malkin, WMAL conservative radio talk show host Larry O’Connor and Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.

Across the street, members of the County Council and leaders of CASA, an immigrants’ rights group, addressed the crowd.

County Councilman Evan Glass (D) said one third of the county’s population are immigrants.

“All means all,” Glass yelled. “I want every resident to know you are welcome.”

Supporters listening to him speak yelled, “Tear down the wall.”

The theme was consistent. While several protesters said they were unfamiliar with the technicalities of Elrich’s policy, all said they believe the county’s residents should be treated the same.

When asked if they were OK with an undocumented immigrant charged with rape receiving bail and being released from jail, Bethesda resident William Zellmer, a 74-year-old Democrat, said yes.

“That would be OK – receiving bail,” Zellmer said. “That would be the same as any other person.”

County Councilman Tom Hucker (D) said there is no correlation between immigration status and the propensity to commit a crime.

An 82-year-old resident from Leisure World said she thinks the county should handle resident criminals.

“I don’t think ICE should be involved with people here in Montgomery County,” Sandra Robinson said.

As the protests were ending, Elrich could be seen across the street from the pro-ICE crowd. One of the protestors yelled, “You’re our county executive, too.”

But Elrich wouldn’t cross the street.

“They’re not reasonable,” Elrich said of the crowd. “I get hate mail. There’s a lot of ugliness. They don’t discuss issues. They don’t get their facts right. We are not a sanctuary county. We’re not.”

Glynis Kazanjian is a freelance writer. 

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  1. One thing that I would like to see in reporting issues like this is that the positive side is highlighted. One of the first mentions that you make is to quote the Help Save Maryland group, which has been listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Their views are not reflective of the majority of the county. if you are going to quote them, that should be mentioned. Another thing that you made mention of is the people who came in from out of county to speak against the County Executive’s directive. It is a sad thing that people are imported into Montgomery County to publicly dissent over a county policy as though their opinions are somehow reflective of people in the county. The bottom line is that most people support the directive and that is not clear from your reporting.

  2. Cecilia, were you present at the rally? I was. I am a lifelong Mont Co resident and I can tell you that our anti-sanctuary rally participants were not “bussed in”. Other than some guest speakers, they were all fellow Mont Co residents of all races, religions and ages, many of whom are themselves naturalized Americans.
    Further it is the leftists such as yourself who support this sanctuary policy that ENDANGERS immigrants — legal or illegal — just for the furtherance of your political agenda. I’m sure these 11 y.o and now today a 6 y.o. rape victims don’t care a rat’s patootie about your virtue signaling political agenda.
    Lastly, SPLC itself is a discredited organization rife with allegations of all sorts of financial shenanigans and furthermore was forced to remove HSM long ago from the unfounded claim that it is a hate group.
    The only thing HSM hates is law breaking and rapists. Your position on this issue puts you in the camp of wanting more of both of those.

  3. As another MoCo resident who opposes Sanctuary policies, I was also present at the rally. Most of the people there were from the county. We didn’t have any paid union members or other people “bussed in.” Some of the nationally-known speakers were not from the county, but came to support our concerns.

    While many law abiding citizens have stayed silent for years on this issue, the news of recent rapes has awakened many of the people who work or have many other things to do besides attend a protest. Many people there had never protested before. I would also argue that the anti-Sanctuary group was more diverse than the anti-ICE group (or should I call them the pro-illegal immigration group?). Two of our speakers were Asian women who value legal immigration. The anti-Sanctuary group supports and welcomes LEGAL immigration. Yet, the County Council leaders on the other side of the issue who were there, called us “alt-right” and said we were against immigration, and also said we were using racist rhetoric: NOT TRUE!! You can watch the entire program on Beitbart and plainly see this was not the case. Some of the participants and speaker, Marla Wolff were people who lost a family member due to an illegal immigrant’s crime.

    Nobody wants criminals, whether they are legal or illegal. And, there is something our county can do about it-enforce the laws that our Congress enacted and cooperate with ICE-a federal agency. Picking and choosing which federal agency to cooperate with doesn’t help anyone except the criminals.

  4. The article states that the illegal immigrant protesters were claiming that all county residents should be treated equally. But under the actions of the County Council and the County Executive they are not being treated equally. For example, the County Executive has not issued an executive order requiring that law enforcement obstruct and not cooperate with Federal law enforcement when a citizen has committed a crime actionable under federal law. But he has issued an order to that effect with regard to illegal aliens with regard to illegal immigration.

    The AG has not told his prosecutors to plead down felonies committed by citizen to misdemeanors. However, he has told them to do that so that illegal aliens can avoid deportation.

    The County Council has not provided legal representation for citizens in civil trials. The Constitution only requires that legal representation be provided gratis for a person in criminal trials. However, the County Council provides representation, using tax payer dollars, to illegal aliens in civil cases including deportation hearings.

    If a citizen is illiterate and cannot read English,he cannot obtain a driver’s license because he cannot read the exam. However, on request, illegal aliens are allowed to take the test in Spanish and then drive on roadways where the signs are in English.

    The County Council does not provide specialized services to citizens which illegal immigrants are taxed to pay for. Yet through byzantine means of transferring tax payer funds to outside groups, the County Council provides services to illegal aliens that are not provided to citizens.

    In contrast, the anti-illegal immigration group was asking that with regard to cooperation with ICE,, all residents of the County be treated equally. The goal is for illegal immigrants who commit crimes to be deported per law. There have been nine rapes committed by illegal aliens in the space of a month. The victims, attacked have Hispanic or Latino surnames. If not all,some of the victims, were most likely illegal aliens Certainly the 11 year old who was pimp[ed out by her brother to three illegal aliens
    was a member of the illegal alien community. However, C.E. Erlich’s executive order endangers both citizens, legal immigrants,
    and illegal immigrants. Is that the type of equality that he and those protesters supporting him and the Council’s position have in mind?

  5. The facts are that Montgomery County is making it less safe for the citizens of the County and State by not turning over Illegal Invaders who have gone on to commit serious additional crimes like rape to ICE when requested and allowing them back out on the streets. County Executive Marc Elrich needs to be charged with aiding and abetting criminals and failure to follow Federal Immigration Laws because that is what he has done with the ICE-related executive order signed by him in July. 8 Illegal Rapists were released instead of being turned over to ICE. It is past time to vote these Anti-American politicians out of office.

  6. The only shouting that was going on was from the group across the street. The only loud chants with our group was “USA, USA” as we waved flags.

  7. I was at the rally too, & we were protesting the policy because the policy allows rapists and child abusers to be released from custody to abuse women & children again. Why would anyone want to support the right of criminals to go free over the right of children & women, many of them immigrants as well, not to be raped and abused?

  8. In reading your article, I think it’s important to point out that the rally was against ILLEGAL immigrants, NOT legal immigrants. That is a very important point. Your article states multiple times that this was an anti immigrant rally. You are not reporting the facts correctly. This rally was about ILLEGAL immigrants, who commit serious crimes, being released and not being held for ICE. That’s a pretty big difference from what you reported.

  9. It appears that Cecilia’s comments are inaccurate. I attended this rally and no one was bussed in or paid to attend. At least not on the side that opposes these draconian policies. It was about the rule of law and protection of the citizens of MoCo legal and otherwise. Facts matter and Cecilia’s facts are wrong.

  10. I have had a number of people tell me they tried to post a comment to this article but they have either not been posted or were “awaiting moderation” and removed. Why is that???

  11. Cecilia: I was present at the rally and no one who was there to oppose the draconian executive order was paid to be there. No bussing occurred. Your facts are simply not correct. The really was generated because county residences are feeling considerably less safe with rapists roaming our streets. Since the rally a ninth rape has been reported.

  12. I posted a polite, business like comment, so have many others. They are being deleted by MM! Seems like they are trying to control the narrative on this !!

  13. I attended the Rally- not something that I ever imagined that I would do. I want enforcement of the criminal immigration laws to keep the citizens of Montgomery County safe. I am just law abiding citizens who want a safe and welcoming community minus the criminals.

  14. Anti-immigration demonstrators Much I could say but I think the article discredited itself from the beginning. It begins with the statement “… Anti-immigration demonstrators…”. I was there. I was in front of the County Council Office Building. I was on the side of supporting ICE, and Federal laws. I was there in support of LEGAL immigration. In support of LEGAL immigrants that follow the law when they come to this country. Why is the word ‘LEGAL’ so off-putting to the other side. I and my brothers and sisters have NEVER said they oppose LEGAL immigration. As Ricky Ricardo used to say (I’m old, to bad if you don’t get it.) Lucy you got some ‘plaining to do’. I was also concerned to here the counter protesters using the word ‘resident’ instead of ‘citizen’. The words are not interchangeable.

  15. Where is the compassion for the poor rape victims of these recent horrendous crimes? The demonstrators on the Montgomery County Council steps were not “anti-immigration” as the article falsely stated. Many were first and second generation legal immigrants themselves who care about enforcing laws and protecting all families and children in our community. Recently Montgomery County let an illegal alien alleged rapist go free despite an ICE detainer. Doesn’t County Executive Elrich think rape is a “serious” crime?

  16. American citizens and legal immigrants must now speak up. The left one world agenda is evil and will change forever those values that makes America a great nation that supports the right to privacy, free enterprise, self reliance, protected speech and many more legal protections. We want secure borders and we welcome legal immigrants who will add to the American dream.

  17. Bring lawsuits against your county council and local political leaders for failure to follow federal laws as written and for failure to protect and, promote the safety legal residents first. Failure to do so is criminal and is tacitly approving the rights of illegals to recklessly kill innocent legal residents without any punishment. In essence, legal residents safety has been devalued and place behind the supposed legal rights of these illegal immigrants. Your leaders are legally as guilty for murder for promoting and implementing laws that create these situations. Put them in jail. Harass them when they out to dinner with their families. Call them criminals (that’s what they are), call them traitors to the legal residents, call them socialist filth. Do whatever it takes to completely disgrace them publicly. They do not hesitate to do that to conservatives. Call them what they are and in no uncertain terms. This is the only way do can stop this traitorous behavior.

  18. Right, the SPLC labels any group that disagrees with their fascist policies as being a hate group, it got more popular under the Obama administration to change the narratives and spread lies. First off, Help Save Maryland, and I repeat, is not a HATE GROUP, we get labeled that way because we fight against ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION, we support fully, 100 percent, Lawful Immigration into our Communities, however, we will not stand by and let these elected leaders flaunt their abilities to conflate Lawful Immigration and Illegal Immigration as; We Despise All Immigrants. It’s a lie, and that is all the Radical Liberals have, lies, lies and more lies, until you lie enough the sheeple believe it. In Montgomery County, it’s all about diversity, including child rapists, ms13, murders, high taxes and 50 percent of the Latino population in our schools can’t even speak English. We support Law Enforcement, and support our Immigration Laws, as broken as they are, Illegal Aliens jumping in front of people spending thousands of dollars to do it the right way, get pushed aside, lastly, if you go to our website, you WILL NOT find any mention of hate towards legal immigrants. This article write up is garbage and is inaccurate.

  19. I was there and there was no hate and I didn’t see any Nazi’s, white supremist, Antifa or any extremists. Its a shame Elrich didn’t come out to talk us, such a chance to communicate versus hiding. Is he afraid or uncertain of his position and policies?

    I have found that we all want the same thing but its all about how we go about it. Blasting and name calling, open borders, disobeying laws, not caring about our citizens and legal immigrants, its just not helpful in moving us forward.

    Montgomery County Citizens are fair, caring, passionate people. I thing we can agree on this and start a new way forward.


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