As debate for a cohesive federal immigration policy continues in Washington, D.C., in the newly drawn 8th Congressional District, which includes portions of both Frederick and Montgomery counties, a growing foreign-born population is met with divergent approaches.
Aggravating the debate is a lack of data on the country’s segment of the immigrant community that is undocumented. The U.S. Census Bureau, America’s definitive source on population data, tracks race and foreign birth, but not immigration status.
Oft criticized as a safe harbor for undocumented immigrants through its day-worker programs and policing policies, Montgomery County boasts a foreign-born population of more than 30 percent, triple that of neighboring Frederick County, which has less than 9 percent of its population identified as foreign born, according to Census data.
Montgomery College, the first community college to offer tuition rates to illegal immigrants, began opening its doors to undocumented students years before Maryland passed its DREAM act.
Together with Baltimore, Montgomery was the last of two jurisdictions in Maryland to implement the federal Secure Communities program, which requires the Federal Bureau of Investigation to provide U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement with the fingerprints it receives from county jails — a program denounced by organizations such as the immigrant advocacy group Casa of Maryland, which calls Montgomery County home.
While saying the county’s hands are effectively tied with regard to Secure Communities, County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) has spoken openly against the federal policy, pointing out it has the potential to create an atmosphere of fear that undermines the county’s ability to get people involved with police.
“I disagree strongly with the federal policy,” he said. I think it is going in the wrong direction. In my opinion, it does not make the community any more secure. In my opinion, it does just the opposite, separates people from more direct engagement with law enforcement personnel.”
What is the right approach to immigration for this district and how do you address this in Washington?
“As a longtime immigrant myself, I am especially sensitive to the needs and concerns of both legal and illegal immigrants, as well as those of the native born. I would strive for a more fair and balanced approach somewhere between those of the police departments of Montgomery versus Frederick County.”
— Gus Alzona (R)
“An efficient humane, enforceable and government managed guest worker such as Canada's would end most of the US' current problems. Temporary residency leading to green cards and citizenship should be integrated with the guest worker program for illegals already here whom are productively employed and fully self-supporting.”
— George English (D)
“According to the Small Business Administration, “Federal law requires employers to verify an employees elegibility to work in the United States.” I agree with President Obama, who has asked Congress to debate and pass a new immigration bill to alleviate this problem.”
— George Gluck (G)
“The federal government should enforce the current laws. No new immigration laws for one year, since immigration is such a divisive issue. Congress must end the gridlock and work on bipartisan solutions to the major fiscal problems of the federal government and the economic crisis facing our nation.”
— Shelly Skolnick (R)
“We need to enforce the immigration laws on our books and eliminate the sanctuary cities that my opponent has sponsored. Lax enforcement means our area remains a magnet to illegal immigration. This has contributed to gang violence and insecurity in our schools, and endangers legal immigrants.”
— Kenneth Timmerman (R)
“Immigration needs to be address at the federal level. We must protect our borders and Congress should pass comprehensive immigration reform like the bipartisan McCain-Kennedy bill. We also need to streamline our immigration system to ensure that those who are playing by the rules are not put at a disadvantage.”
— Incumbent U.S. Rep Chris Van Hollen (D-Dist.8)
“The first priority is border security. This will require more commitment of resources and innovative use of sensor technologies. We need to fully enforce employer related laws. We need to increase opportunities for legal immigration so people aren't forced into the shadows. Legal immigration strengthens our country.”
— Dave Wallace (R)