Tuesday, June 20, 2017
Rockville becomes a sanctuary city
The ordinance will codify the informal sanctuary policy the City Police department currently operates under. It passes after the toxic Rockville High School rape case, the theft of a Rockville police officer's assault rifle by an illegal immigrant, and the alleged murderer of a Muslim teenager in Sterling was just revealed to be an illegal immigrant from El Salvador.
During discussion of the ordinance after two hours of public testimony, Feinberg made an alternative motion to direct the City Manager and Police Chief to devise a written policy on how they would deal with immigration status, within 30 days. Councilmember Virginia Onley opposed the motion, but seconded it for the sake of discussion. Councilmember Mark Pierzchala declared Feinberg's proposal as being too late.
Feinberg countered that "we never had a robust discussion," requiring her to make a last-minute proposal to "force the discussion." She said a written policy would be more "nimble" than a formal ordinance, which could not be suspended during an emergency by the City Manager. Feinberg also termed the ordinance, which would forbid any City employee from inquiring about a person's citizenship status, "unenforceable."
Speakers backing sanctuary status for Rockville hurled invective at opponents throughout the Community Forum segment of the meeting: "racist, xenophobia, hate, anti-immigrant (as opposed to anti-illegal immigrant), genocide, hate-filled time." But Feinberg and Newton questioned that holier-than-thou attitude. "Both sides have been fearmongering," Feinberg said. Newton decried the "venom spread by both sides" in the months-long debate.
Newton said she was "disappointed" that the same councilmembers who only recently released the text of the ordinance would now block another member from proposing a last-minute alternative. She called the ordinance "a solution in search of a problem," noting that Rockville has had no issues with its current police policy. Newton suggested such policy is better written by police, than by politicians with political motives.
"That was just a staggering speech," Pierzchala said. "Thank you," replied Newton sarcastically. "And not in the good sense," Pierzchala clarified.
"This is how this body has been functioning for more than a year now," Feinberg said. "Things will be just shoved in front of us." She bemoaned the "collegiality" among her colleagues. Onley expressed agreement with Feinberg's assessment, even though she did not support Feinberg's proposal. Onley said, "we need work sessions, not surprise attacks and last-minute motions."
When the Mayor called the vote, the Team Rockville slate of Pierzchala, Onley and the sponsor of the ordinance, Julie Palakovich Carr, voted in favor, and Newton and Feinberg voted against it.
There were some intriguing aspects to the discussion prior to the vote.
Proponents of sanctuary status, caught off-guard by the strong opposition by legal Asian immigrants at a March public hearing on the proposal, had claimed many of those speakers were not Rockville residents. But last night, they bused in sanctuary advocates from Bethesda, Silver Spring, Takoma Park, Gaithersburg and Washington, D.C. to testify in favor of the ordinance, doing exactly what they had accused opponents of three months ago.
Second, during the Mayor and Council discussion, Palakovich Carr stated that cities that don't enforce federal immigration law have lower crime rates. That is simply not true. In Frederick, which does enforce federal immigration law, you have a 1 in 196 chance of being the victim of a violent crime such as murder, rape, armed robbery, or assault. In Baltimore, a sanctuary city, your chance of being a victim shoots up to 1 in 65. In Chicago, where Mayor Rahm Emanuel has presided over a sanctuary city and record numbers of homicides, it is 1 in 110. In sanctuary San Francisco, it is 1 in 127.
Frederick is clearly safer. In Manassas, after Prince William County Chairman Corey Stewart's policy to enforce federal immigration law passed ten years ago, today your chance of being a victim of a violent crime is a staggeringly low 1 in 454. Aggravated assaults in Prince William County have dropped by 27% since then, and not a single racial profiling complaint has been filed with the County police. Police there can only inquire about citizenship status after arresting a suspect and taking him or her to the County jail.
As speaker Liz Matory noted in her testimony during the Community Forum, the research done for the Mayor and Council by staff regarding the proposed ordinance did not take into consideration the policy of Frederick County.