WASHINGTON — For a long time, Rockville police have had an informal policy to not ask anyone about their immigration status, or for help with immigration enforcement.
But in the wake of major immigration policy changes by the Trump administration, the city is considering an ordinance, introduced by Councilmember Julie Palakovich Carr, that would make its policies official.
Seventy-five people signed up to speak on the topic Monday night during a public hearing at City Hall.
“It’s a common sense effort to foster trust between the community and the police department that will make the community more safe,” said Ben Shnider, who launched a petition on Change.org to “Make Rockville, MD a Sanctuary City.” As of Monday night, the petition had 1,120 supporters.
Another Change.org petition, “Say NO to Rockville Becoming A Sanctuary City,” had 545 supporters as of Monday night.
Former Councilmember Tom Moore said now is the time for the city to formalize its policies.
“A law that tells the terrified children in Rockville that this city will play no part in deporting their parents, no part in destroying their families,” he said.
Nancy Shih said that the ordinance would make Rockville less safe.
“Horrible MS-13 gang crimes are everywhere nowadays. Do you read the newspaper?” she asked.
“It gives undocumented immigrants a false sense of security,” said Zhenya Li, a Chinese immigrant who is a U.S. citizen.
Assistant Montgomery County Police Chief Russ Hamill attended the hearing at the request of Police Chief Tom Manger to talk about what the changes on the federal level mean for his department and Rockville police.
“The current presidential administration’s orders and directions have little bearing on the day to day operations of local law enforcement agencies, including here locally, including our departments. The president does not direct the actions of local police organizations, and these measures do not influence our operations. Nothing has changed over the past two months,” Hamill said.
“We conduct our local law enforcement duties the same as we have done since the day I came here over 33 years ago. We do it fairly, impartially, and with a goal to serve everyone equally without regard to race, creed, color, nationality, or any other status somebody could think of,” he added.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect that Nancy Shih is not a Rockville resident.