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Maryland county open to ICE cooperation after past stonewalling, release of illegal immigrants

A Maryland county is now promising to work with federal immigration officials after hundreds of detainers were not honored by the county in the last two years.

A Maryland county is promising to work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) after a "productive" meeting about it honoring ICE detainers lodged against criminal illegal immigrants – as the top ICE official in the state told Fox News Digital that hundreds of criminals have been released back onto the streets by the county in the last two years.

Montgomery County officials met with ICE’s Baltimore Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) to discuss cooperation on Tuesday. In a statement, county officials said there was a "productive discussion" between County Executive Marc Elrich and Baltimore Field Office Director Darius Reeves "about improved communications and operational challenges with custody transfers." An ICE official told Fox News Digital that a dialogue had been opened on honoring detainers and they were looking forward to a mutually beneficial arrangement.

ICE lodges detainers against illegal immigrants who are brought into local police custody when ICE believes them to be deportable. Those detainers request that the police notify ICE when they are about to be released and sometimes hold them for a limited additional time so that ICE can take them safely into federal custody and act to remove them.


However, "sanctuary" jurisdictions refuse to honor such detainers. Montgomery County claims it is not a sanctuary county, and that it works with ICE in their work on "immigration and customs violations and drug and human trafficking." Elrich said on a press call on Wednesday that the county does honor some detainers when an illegal immigrant is convicted of violent crimes.

Despite that claim, ICE says no detainers have been honored in the county in either the last fiscal year or this one. Director Reeves told Fox News Digital this week that in FY 2023, ICE issued 198 detainers, none of which were honored. So far in FY 2024, the agency has issued 119 detainers and none have been honored by the county.


He said those included illegal immigrants with convictions for assault, robbery, illegal firearm possession, sex abuse of a minor, rape and other sex offenses. He also said there was at least one MS-13 gang member among those whom ICE had requested, but they had been rebuffed by the county.

In the state of Maryland as a whole, the agency arrested 152 sex offenders in FY23. He said the counties that do not honor detainers – which he said includes Montgomery County – account for 46% of at-large sex offender arrests.

On Tuesday, ICE told Fox 5 that a Salvadoran national charged this week with the murder of a 2-year-old in Maryland had been arrested twice in Montgomery County and released both times despite ICE lodging a detainer. Elrich said his initial arrests were for theft and were not on the list of violent crimes that would have resulted in him being turned over to ICE. 

Reeves says ICE will go into the community and locate many of those illegal aliens, and brought them into custody, but stressed that releasing them onto the streets poses a threat to both ICE agents and the public.

"Any at-large operation like that, it's just an inherent risk and risk to the officer and risk to the subject of our arrest and it's a risk to normal day-to-day citizens that happen upon the scene," he said.

"The most violent of folks potentially have weapons on them. You can have incidents where… they take off in their vehicles and crash into other folks. It's just a whole host of issues that would not occur if the detainers were being honored. We could come to the jails and we can take them out of the jails in a safe environment and move them toward their immigration hearings."

He also stressed that it is not a major burden on state and local jurisdictions.


"We're not asking any of these jurisdictions that are unwilling to cooperate to hold anyone for us beyond the 48 hours after their state release. What we are asking is to have advance notice of 48 hours so we can have the resources made available to pick up these individuals and in a very safe manner," he said.

In 2021, the Biden administration implemented significantly narrowed ICE enforcement priorities, limiting ICE to recent border crossers, national security threats and public safety threats. So Reeves stressed that the illegal immigrants they are typically targeting are normally serious criminals.

"We are focused on egregious offenders, major public safety threats and, national security threats. We are not focused on the single mother, migrant mother who happens to steal diapers or formula from the local bodega to feed her children. We are interested in guns. We're interested in sex trafficking, human trafficking, violence, rape, murderers, gangs. Those are the people that we're concentrating on."

In its statement, the county said the meeting is one of a number of such meetings, and the two sides will be meeting again in the coming weeks.

"The County cleared up some misconceptions about our policy on immigration enforcement (ie Montgomery County is not a sanctuary county) and ICE underscored their need for more notice prior to releases," the statement said. 

"Director Reeves offered resources and training for our Department of Corrections staff and the County shared our policy on notification to allow ICE to provide feedback," the statement said. 

The meeting comes as "sanctuary" policies have come into focus after a number of high-profile crimes have been committed by illegal aliens after they have been previously arrested and then turned back onto the streets despite an ICE detainer lodged against them. In New York City, one of the most high-profile sanctuary cities, Mayor Eric Adams said this week that sanctuary laws need to be modified to turn migrants who have committed felonies over to ICE.

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