ICE agents may be given more access to Montgomery Co. jail

FILE - In this July 8, 2019, file photo, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officer looks on during an operation in Escondido, Calif. Advocacy groups and unions are pressuring Marriott, MGM and others not to house migrants who have been arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. But the U.S. government says it sometimes needs bed space, and if hotels don’t help it might have to split up families. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File)(AP/Gregory Bull)

An executive order relating to immigration enforcement that took effect in Montgomery County last month might be changed.

The order bars Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents from entering secure parts of the county jail. As a result, people released to the agency’s custody have to go through a secure door and into a lobby area before an ICE agent can retrieve them.

County Executive Marc Elrich said Tuesday night that he will consider changing that restriction.

“We are going to look at that because there are questions that people have raised about not just the safety of ICE officials, but the safety of anybody else who might be out there (in the lobby),” said Elrich.

Elrich said he would like to hear from ICE officials to discuss details of the security issue. Elrich said no one from ICE has reached out to him to express their concerns.

The county executive also responded to the uproar over the recent release on bail of an undocumented immigrant charged with rape.

ICE issued a detainer for the man and the county’s Department of Corrections said it notified the agency six hours before his release. But ICE said it did not receive the message in time because it was a phone message left with an off-duty officer.

Elrich wants to make clear that the man’s release was a court decision he could not interfere with.

“If people think we’re just releasing people, that’s the thing that offends me most of all … I haven’t released anybody,” Elrich said. “Somebody in the court system said, ‘You served your time, we dropped the charges or you met bail, and therefore you’re free to go.’ And I don’t have the power to say ‘No, you’re not free to go.'”

According to its website, when a detainer is issued, ICE asks law enforcement agencies to notify them “as early as practicable — ideally at least 48 hours — before a removable alien is released from criminal custody.”

Elrich took issue with that request.

“I resent this notion they need 48 hours notice. There’s only one jail in Montgomery County. We’re an hour’s drive from Baltimore … The idea that they can’t get here is ludicrous,” Elrich said Tuesday.

“Get yourself out of your office, and send people here to do what you’re supposed to do.”

Michelle Basch

Michelle Basch is a reporter turned morning anchor at WTOP News.

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