One longtime Frederick County commissioner is comparing another commissioner’s decision to crack down on illegal immigrants to 1940s Nazi Germany and the treatment of Jews during the Holocaust.
Commissioner David P. Gray (R) made the comparison during a discussion at a Board of County Commissioners meeting Thursday about a package of legislation targeting illegal immigrants in the county.
“I find it chilling with all these proposals,” Gray said. “It conjures up images of when people sanctioned Jews in Germany. For God’s sake what kind of images are we trying to put forth for Frederick County. I think it’s absolutely terrible.”
Commissioners President Blaine R. Young (R) in November announced his intention to crack down on illegal immigrants after the 2009 murder of Jacinta “Patty” Ayala by her co-worker at a Burger King in Frederick — Jose Reyes Mejia-Varela, an illegal immigrant from El Salvador.
In one of Young’s proposals, local businesses would be forced to use a federal database to check the immigration status of their employees. Another could prohibit apartment rental agencies from allowing illegal immigrants to live in their properties. Commissioners also are considering eliminating day labor sites in the county and creating an ordinance making English the official language of Frederick County.
Commissioners voted 4-1 to take to public hearing next month only the proposal to create an ordinance making English the official language. Gray was the lone vote against the public hearing, which has not been scheduled.
The proposed ordinance would replace a resolution already adopted by the county that declares English the official language. The resolution is more ceremonial and did not require a public hearing, County Attorney John Mathias said.
The ordinance specifies that all actions by the county government be in English, he said, with some exceptions.
For example, a language other than English could be used to teach English, protect public health or collect money owed to the county. Since the ordinance only applies to county government actions, commissioners will have to determine how to enforce it, Mathias said.
Commissioners decided to get more information from Mathias on the ramifications of the other three proposals before taking them to public hearing. Frederick County Sheriff’ Chuck Jenkins (R) told commissioners his officers do not have the authority to punish businesses that do not track the legal status of their employees or apartment complexes that rent to illegal immigrants.The proposals are not specific enough because commissioners are not sure how they can enforce them.
Most of the apartment complexes in Frederick County are in the city of Frederick, where a law adopted by the County Commissioners would not apply.
“There are ought to be a specific proposal we can evaluate,” Commissioner C. Paul Smith (R) said, in reference to the proposal requiring business owners to use a federal database to check the immigration status. “I think the last thing we want is to go forward in a general area and not know what we are doing. I’m not dismissing the idea of doing it, but I don’t see what I would want to get behind.”
Commissioner Kirby Delauter (R) agreed.
“I’d rather see some more information on it,” he said. “I’m not against it. I think its a good idea. I just don’t know how you’re going to measure it right now.”
Gray, however, criticized the proposal to prohibit apartment agencies from renting to illegals.
“I think the whole idea is wrong,” he said. “This is chilling. This is not what this country is made of. How sick are we. This is just absolutely repugnant. I think this should be dismissed out of hand and forgotten.”
Young responded by saying, “Why don’t you dismiss the constitution while you’re at it?”
“You’re talking about how many people you can have in your home,” Gray countered. “Your home is your castle for God sakes.”
The county already has some illegal immigration enforcement in place.
Jenkins spearheaded the implementation of the 287g program, which allows deputies to check the immigration status of every person arrested in Frederick County. The policy began in April 2008, and the county is the only one in Maryland currently operating the program. More than 1,000 illegal immigrants have been arrested in the county through the program, Jenkins said.
Meanwhile, commissioners did not have statistics on the number of illegal immigrants living in Frederick County.
Brad Botwin with Help Save Maryland, a nonprofit organization that fights illegal immigration, said the number is probably in the “tens of thousands.”
“The state has about 300,000 or so, of which about 200,000 or more we believe are just in Montgomery County,” he said. “I would imagine Frederick is smaller and because of the good work of Sheriff Jenkins, the number is lower and much smaller.”