Letter to the Editor: The Last Word on Rockville Immigration Protests

A scene from the Sept. 13 immigration rally in Rockville.

Regarding Gail Weiss’s Letter to the Editor of Sept. 18, I am sorry that Ms. Weiss was offended by being called “anti-immigrant.” Unfortunately, she chose to attend and support an event organized by right-wing extremists, hate groups, and neo-Nazis, at which speakers and attendees demonized immigrants to bolster support for policies of cruelty and fear that do not make anyone in our county or our country safer.

Help Save Maryland, the group that co-organized the Rockville rally, has been classified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a “Nativist Extremist Group” that is “anti-immigrant.” The celebrity guest at the rally, and one of two listed “hosts” on the rally’s Facebook Event page, was Michelle Malkin, who has authored books that defend Japanese internment and post-9/11 racial profiling. Her latest work argues that the increase in people seeking asylum and refuge in the U.S. – and the increasing numbers of people living their lives here without legal authorization – is a conspiracy to financially enrich the “global elite,” Silicon Valley, and the “Radical Left.” I had a bizarre debate with Ms. Malkin on WUSA9 the evening after the rally, during which she claimed that progressive Jewish philanthropist George Soros is funding this conspiracy. This is the same anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant trope that motivated the perpetrator of the Pittsburgh Tree of Life Synagogue massacre.

Besides Ms. Malkin, and as this publication noted, also present at the rally was Sebastian Gorka, former Trump aide with well-documented links to anti-Semitic, Nazi-sympathizing fascist groups in Hungary. It wasn’t just the organizers who spouted hate: while Ms. Weiss may feel she was supporting legal immigration, she stood among people holding signs saying, “Rapists Love Women Who Hate Guns,” as well as people bearing White Nationalist tattoos.

The rally Ms. Weiss so enthusiastically attended was designed to stoke unfounded fears about undocumented immigrants and exploit the pain of members of our community who have been the victims of crimes. Data published by numerous sources demonstrate that undocumented immigrants commit crimes at lower rates than United States citizens, and that communities with higher rates of undocumented immigrants have lower crime rates overall. According to the Cato Institute, “The vast majority of research finds that immigrants do not increase local crime rates and that they are less likely to cause crime or be incarcerated than native-born citizens.” Of course we must sympathize with families who have lost loved ones to violent crimes, but it is beyond crass to use their stories to paint a demonstrably false portrait of immigrants as violent criminals in order to gin up support for hateful, cruel, and frankly ineffective policies.

This anti-immigrant rally was called to oppose Montgomery County’s recent Executive Order which, among other things, prohibits the county from holding people in detention beyond their release dates upon written request from ICE. Every time someone is released from our county jail, it is because a county judge decided that it was safe to do so, whether that person is undocumented, documented, naturalized, or a native-born citizen. Imprisoning people, even undocumented immigrants, after they’ve been cleared for release is a violation of the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unlawful detentions.

The Executive Order’s limits on cooperation between county law enforcement and ICE actually increases the safety of our community.  It ensures that people at risk of deportation who are witnesses to or victims of crimes are not afraid to call the police. The ever-increasing need to convince our immigrant community members that they will not end up in ICE custody if they assist law enforcement is why the Montgomery County Police Department supports the Executive Order.

A person’s immigration and citizenship status does not, statistically, make them a danger to our community. The rally organizers’ and participants’ insistence that it does is rooted in the very same xenophobia that has animated anti-immigrant sentiment throughout our nation’s history, including the time when Ms. Weiss’s, and my, Jewish ancestors emigrated here.

Perhaps she is unaware that the avenues for legal immigration to this country that were available to our grandparents and great-grandparents basically no longer exist. They were closed by Congress in 1921 and 1924. Later, tens of thousands of Jewish refugees attempting to flee Nazi Europe were denied passage to the U.S. or sent back to be tortured or murdered in the Nazi camps.

I hope that Ms. Weiss will join me in pushing Congress to fix our broken immigration, asylum, and refugee systems so that today’s immigrants have real pathways to safety and citizenship – and that she will reconsider in the future whether she wants to stand with people spreading anti-immigrant lies and hate.

— JOANNA SILVER

The writer lives in Silver Spring; she is an attorney specializing in the intersections between criminal and immigration law, and a member of Jews United for Justice and Takoma Park Mobilization.

14 COMMENTS

  1. It is extremely disturbing reading the Leftist/Liberal slant this article was written in. The people protesting were not Anti-Immigrant. The people protesting support Legal Immigration. The people protesting were Anti-Illegal Invader and against the crimes some of these Illegal Invaders have gone on to commit. There have been at least 11 Rapes that we know about committed by Illegal Invaders in Montgomery County and none of these people were turned over to ICE but instead let back out on the street due to Montgomery County’s policy that was enacted in July. Anyone who doesn’t see a problem with this and the fact it is making the county less safe is either willfully ignorant or not paying attention. This policy needs to be stopped.

  2. No matter what you state in this article, the purpose of this rally was to protest the release of illegal immigrants after committing serious crimes and not cooperating with ICE. This was not about crime rates of illegal immigrants nor was it an attempt to stoke fear of immigrants. It was a protest to highlight the 8 illegal immigrants who committed rape in our county and were released disputes being illegal and having an ICE detainer. This is unacceptable and we should not pretend otherwise.

  3. The mental and judgmental gymnastics of Ms. Silver are both astonishing and revolting. Let’s ask her fellow women who were raped and sexually assaulted by these illegal aliens if they are happy with MoCo criminal system releasing these people out into the community, and not turning them over to ICE. If MoCo puts these people away for 20 years each, maybe I’ll have some respect for these MoCo sanctuary statists. As of now, all I see are Socialist Democrats willing to sacrifice innocent victims of rape in order to get Democrat voters supported by generaous governmental handouts. Power over People. Hitler, Stalin, Mao and all other Fascists like them would definitely approve.

  4. No matter how you’d prefer to spin it, the purpose of the rally organizers was an attempt to stoke fear of immigrants. Signs referred to immigrants, not to the individuals who committed major crimes. MCPD does contact ICE prior to releasing individuals for whom ICE has issued a detainer; what they don’t do is continue to hold the individuals in custody illegally if ICE fails to act timely with that information. As you already know, but for the benefit of other readers, crossing the border unauthorized is a misdemeanor, while remaining in the US unauthorized is a civil offense and not a crime.

  5. Is this satire? It must be because the truth is distorted beyond any recognition that it is comical. I urge readers to watch a video of the protest speakers. I did. They were calling for our county officials to rescind an executive order preventing coordination between local and federal law enforcement. In other words, that Montgomery Country enforced the law. While you preach sympathy, these residents demand prevention. Prevent more victims by enforcing all the laws. The crime rate among convicted rapists is 100%. Rather than providing any rational counter arguments to what they were actually protesting, you distort facts and attack their integrity.

  6. When I read commentaries like this about events that are basically for protecting legal citizens rights and wanting to remove illegal Alien rapists and criminals I am blown away by the passion that someone could have being against it. I wonder if it is just complete naivety or a lack of wanting to speak the truth. If someone is against Illegal Aliens being allowed to rape young women it is does not make them a racist. If we are for ICE enforcing our existing immigration laws and removing Illegal Aliens who rape young women it dos not make us racists. If we are for our local elected government officials to keep legal citizens safe and not have young women raped by illegal aliens we are not racists. Or any of the other names liberals call people when they know they can’t argue the facts or truth of an issue. And of course the old standby; relate anything they think is wrong to the Holocaust and Hitler Nazis. Don’t you all have another playbook to read from? It gets quite old and dull. And as a Jewish person myself; I’m offended. I also question why it is someone who supposedly supports Jewish causes would be friendly to a political side that is the most unfriendly to the Nation of Israel and whose new leadership is full of antisemitic Israel and Jewish haters. The writer should be ashamed of herself and should take a look at what makes her use this form of attack. Is it some sort of guilt that she was brainwashed into? Is it that she lives a comfortable life and doesn’t have to deal with the effects of her condescending rhetoric? Or maybe it’s because she profits from the current system and doesn’t want to see her cash cow dry up even at the expense of young women getting raped by illegal Aliens.
    I am all for Congress putting a fix to the problem but making certain areas sanctuary to criminal aliens who rape young women, (and yes it’s a sanctuary even if Elrich doesn’t want to admit it) is not the answer and it’s a danger to legal immigrants and their future. Maybe this organization from Maryland Matters should think about giving equal time to both sides of an issue and not give the last word to someone who so clearly has an agenda and doesn’t care about the actual citizens who are hurt by this sanctuary policy.

  7. I attended and felt no hate or fear mongering if so, I would have left immediately and been totally disgusted.

    I think Ms. Silver does us all harm by pontificating a divisive position that anyone that protests to uphold our immigration laws is a Neo Nazi, White Supremist, extremist. She subtlety advocates ignoring laws that she does not believe in — I thought Attorney’s took an oath to uphold our laws and the constitution?

    I also object to her half sentence where she asks for sympathy (not justice) for the victims but before finishing, she turns it into another rant.

    Stop the name calling, let’s obey today’s laws and work together for change.

  8. This person is so blinded by Trump Derangement Syndrome that she is willing to spout lies and falsehoods throughout this article. In fact I am surprised that this piece, so riddled with falsehoods, was even allowed on the website. First there were no Nazis, right wing extremists, etc at this rally, only people who care about their country, care about their county and the safety of their loved ones. And to state the blatant lie that illegals commit less crimes than legal citizens, shows that she has done no research. In fact the Montgomery Police stated flatly to me that they DO NOT collect any statistics on the legal status of people arrested for crimes in the County so there is no way to know whether illegals commit more or less crimes than legal residents. Further, there are other issues with a sanctuary status including overcrowding of schools, elimination of exams, and general dumbing-down of requirements to graduate from high school, not to mention the tremendous additional welfare and law enforcement costs associated with the influx of literally thousands of poor immigrants.

  9. Welcome to the public square. It is completely disingenuous to insinuate that one agrees with every statement or symbol you want to attribute to a speaker (or fellow protester) just because they protest together on one specific issue. Here the issue was to speak out against the executive order which explicitly prevents cooperation between local and federal law enforcement. There are many good people who believe that our countries laws need to be enforced fairly and across the board. That’s what got the current president elected and most likely will get him re-elected.

  10. The article is very offensive when it refers to those who attended the rally as  “Nazi, right-wing extremists, hate groups, and neo-Nazis.” I have no proof of any of that.  I attended the rally to hear about the concern for the children who were raped and how the county is putting illegal aliens back into our community. What was done to help the victims of the rapes?  We don’t hear about that.  I believe our officials have a duty to cooperate with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. Law and order and dealing with illegals and more specifically criminal illegal immigrants is OUR concern.

    My family immigrated from Germany and I have empathy for immigrants who struggle.  I grew up not speaking English.  My parents always worked and were not able to help us much with the language.  We helped our parents once we could speak better English.  They were not able to attend PTA meetings or have help from the school system.  My two brothers and I struggled to fit into the community with a different culture and a new language.  It wasn’t easy.

    How do welcoming individuals, who are already accused and even convicted criminals, and who have violated our Federal laws, make our communities safer for all of our law-abiding citizens including our legal immigrants, of which I am one?

    Public safety makes sense, sanctuary policies do not.  I believe our community’s safety should be our first priority. When laws are not enforced, criminals have historically exploited loopholes, which, unfortunately too many have witnessed lately, in our county.

  11. Although this is the “Last Word,” I hope you can describe this so tgat I can identify what it looks like and avoid any place with:
    “people bearing White Nationalist tattoos.”

    I am shocked that a Jewish prayer garment was used to engage in an activity other than as a marriage canopy or in association with prayer or reading from a Torah scroll. I do not know what to make of this novel use of a garment when exhorting people at a rally. I hope that the wearer can provide a rationale, both halakhic and secular in an appropriate forum.
    Sincere thanks for allowing me to ask these two questions related to symbols at a rally.

  12. This situation makes me recall when Candace Owens said something to the effect of “Illegals are the new black America.” What she meant is black people in America are catching on that Democrat policies keep them on the Democrat Plantation, ie poor, uneducated, dependent on the government and voting Democrat. So the left needs the illegals here to create a new class of Democrat voters. If the illegals have kids who live in safe neighborhoods, go to good schools, avoid drugs and work hard they will become successful and Conservative. After all, it will be the conservative values of safe neighborhoods, good schools and hard work that got them there (think Ben Carson). And that is the last thing the left wants. So they need to keep the illegals in high crime neighborhoods with drugs, gangs and overcrowded schools in decline, etc. The Left has no interest in the well being of illegals just as they have no interest in the well being of black people. If you don’t believe this just look to Baltimore, Chicago, LA, San Francisco, Philadelphia, etc.

  13. I was there as well and the intent is or wasn’t to intimidate or create fear for anyone, including legal and illegal immigrants. I read the above and thought. If the caring loving people of Montgomery County are creating so much fear then many migrants wouldn’t want to come here. But we are a pretty good welcoming community, full of immigrants, just not all from the current or last generation.

    So that didn’t make sense but I hear and feel al the concerns… So then I realized if the Police come knocking on my door asking questions I would also become alarmed even fearful! Maybe the answer is to have concerned citizens volunteer their time to help and provide comfort separately and let the law enforcement do their jobs, or at least have a different organization providing support.

  14. Hey “Bethesda resident”:

    I hold no great love for the Democratic party machine, but You are profoundly out of line when you claim that only conservatives value safe neighborhoods, good schools and hard work. Remember that this country’s wealth was built on the backs of the hardest of hard workers – slaves – whose labor was stolen (along with their dignity, their children and their right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness). More recently, in the 20th century, this country’s unprecedented economic growth was built thanks to the tireless toiling (hard work) of laborers and tradesmen who were aligned largely with the political left, including supporting strong unions that protected their rights. Supporting good schools has always been important to the poor and middle classes, because it a good education is the key ingredient for social mobility, something that people who grow up in poor and violent neighborhoods know only too well. They are crying out for good schools – beginning with paying teachers decent and competitive wages – the foundation of good schools.

    Your little conspiracy theory of big urban areas being fueled by the leadership of the left is morally bankrupt and conveniently ignores the progressive diminishing and raiding of public funds (by conservatives, not lefties) that used to support things like good schools that people in poverty need to move up the social ladder. You also conveniently leave out the abjectly poor and ignored whites in rural areas – high percentages of poorly educated and people on disability, forgotten by their “Conservative” elected leaders who are bankrupting this country at their constituents’ (and everybody else’s who isn’t in the top 10%) expense.

    Let’s not pit urban against rural, black, minority and immigrant against white. Illegal against legal immigrant. An immigrant’s struggle is my great grandparents’ and grandparents’ struggle when they were just “undesirable”. Poor rural and urban people have EVERYTHING in common with each other and with immigrants, legal or illegal. They are all striving for the American Dream. Let’s recognize that all the services required to create an educated and healthy population, wherever they live, whatever color of their skin, require money, and money is generated by taxes. As long as you keep reducing the taxes on the top 10% of our collective wealth, you are stealing the dream of good schools and safe neighborhoods from the hard workers who will always have less.

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