Frederick County is establishing a national reputation for being tough on illegal immigration issues but, contrary to one organization’s prediction, that reputation doesn’t seem to affect the county’s business climate or a local politician’s ability to raise campaign dollars.
Sheriff Chuck Jenkins (R) first put the county on the national scene when he was named one of the top 10 toughest lawmen on illegal immigration in 2011 by Fox News, largely because he instituted 287(g) in 2007, a controversial federal program to deport illegal immigrants who are arrested for criminal activities. More than 1,000 illegal immigrants were deported, many for minor violations.
This year, the sheriff has worked with the board of county commissioners to develop policies to curb employment and housing of illegal immigrants. Earlier this year, commissioners adopted English as the official language of government, an idea first proposed by former commissioner Charles Jenkins, which at the time didn’t have majority support of the board.
Commissioners’ President Blaine R. Young (R) had the votes, however, to pass the law in February. That law, and his positions aimed at cracking down on illegal immigrants, earned him a spot on a national top 10 list — “Local Hall of Shame,” said Zack Stanton, spokesman for the Immigrants’ List, a political action group that created the Hall of Shame list published this past week.
Upon learning he was on the list, Young’s reaction was anything but shame.
“Wow ... looks like a good class of people,” he said in an email.
Young is the only county commissioner listed among sheriffs, governors and state representatives from across the country, including Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona. The Immigrant’s List targeted local officials who have what it considers extreme positions on illegal immigration, and hall of shamers were honed from dozens of nominations, Stanton said. The organization maintains a national list, and decided to add a local list last year because some local leaders are getting involved in immigration issues, Stanton said.
Immigrants’ List board member Ted Ruthizer said in a May 31 news release that Young’s “extreme policies hurt local business owners and waste taxpayer dollars while he earns the support of fringe special interest groups.”
“Blaine Young’s unprecedented expansion of county government into immigration policy is hurting Frederick County’s working families and making the community a harder place to do business,” he said.
But the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce has not noted any related issues. The Chamber recently participated in a grand opening at the Asian American Center, where speakers pointed toward large increases in Asian-owned businesses, said spokeswoman Jessica Hibbard.
Chamber president and CEO Ric Adams said, "We understand the concerns of the Immigrants' List PAC, but haven't heard from any of our members regarding immigration issues or the county's immigration policies impacting their businesses.”
Young, who owns two businesses in Frederick County and is a Chamber member, said business growth has slowed because of the economy in the past few years, but has not regressed.
“The proof’s not in the pudding,” Young said. “Since 287(g) went in effect, we deported 1,000 aliens who committed crimes and that hasn’t hurt us in business or growth ... [that program] is one they are most critical and most fearful of, and that hasn’t had any effect on business.”
Young, who kicked off a fundraising campaign this week in his quest to become governor of Maryland, doesn’t think the distinction will hurt his campaign or his ability to raise money.
“It obviously puts me on the radar screen,” Young said. “I don’t know if it will help me, but it won’t hurt me.”
His first fundraiser, staged Tuesday night at Holly Hills, raised $147,000, he said Wednesday morning, adding he had a turnout of 120 to 140 supporters.His goal had been to raise $150,000.
Since he was named to the list, Young said he has received plenty of supportive emails from people across the state. The issue of illegal immigration, he said, crosses party lines, as indicated by the “tremendous number of Democrats” who signed the petition for a referendum to repeal the Dream Act giving children of illegal immigrants in-state tuition rates.
Although Young has targeted illegal immigration, not legal immigrants, Stanton, of Immigrants’ List, said Young’s actions have promoted an anti-immigrant atmosphere that has a negative impact on working families.
“I can understand the local frustration,” Stanton said. “Both sides of the issue are not satisfied with status quo. But it seems inevitable that we will have a pathway to citizenship and what I would suggest is that by refusing to work across party lines and come to some sort of moderate common sense agreement, policies like Young’s are preventing immigration issues from getting fixed by spreading misinformation and fear.”