A discussion was held yesterday at the Frederick Friends Meeting house about the 287(g) program adopted by the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office.
The program, first implemented in Frederick in 2008, provides training for sheriff’s deputies by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. It allows deputies to inquire about the immigration status of anyone booked into the county’s adult detention center and begin deportation proceedings if appropriate. The agreement is up for renewal this month.
According to the Frederick Friends Meeting Facebook page the purpose of the discussion was to talk about the program’s impact on the immigrant community, “and steps we can take toward ending it [287(g)].”
Many at the meeting spoke about the fear the program instills within the immigrant community in Frederick, and that even those who are documented are afraid to go to the police with other issues such as abuse.
“You have hard working people who are raising families and trying to build lives [who] are living under this cloud,” said Mary Ann Ford who led the discussion. “There is a division between the immigrant community and the police and that means their [immigrants] safety is being undermined.” Ford is a member of the RISE (Resources for Immigrant Support and Empowerment) Coalition of Western Maryland.
Participants also spoke about ways to move forward and change people’s attitudes on the topic of immigration.
“Think about having to leave your family. That’s what these people [immigrants] are doing. I think we need to make people understand that,” one woman said.
Another participant said there needs to be a reach across the aisle.
“We need people from the other side who are rational,” he said. “If this movement is only comprised of people from the left and the center it’s never going to work.”
The discussion took a turn when one participant noticed that a man towards the back of the room was recording the meeting on his cell phone. When asked to identify himself, he said his name was James Grose, Vice President of the Frederick County Conservative Club.
“I wanted to hear their side of the story and also be able to broadcast their side of the story,” Grose later told the Frederick News-Post. “Let people hear. People can either agree with it or disagree with it.”
Other participants were visibly uncomfortable once it was revealed that Grose was recording.
“That someone would come to a meeting and record it is threatening,” Ford later told the Frederick News-Post.
But the discussion continued and Grose was asked to present his views on the subject.
Grose said for him, and the club, 287(g) is a matter of public safety. According to Grose, the agreement with ICE allows for sheriff’s deputies to get free training on other types of crimes such as drug and sex trafficking.
“We think this is better for the community than what people are making it out to be,” he said.
A video was also shown during the discussion which depicted various people reading stories of immigrants in Frederick being pulled over and asked for documentation.
Grose said that he does not believe in asking for documentation when pulled over.
“You shouldn’t be able to just go up to somebody and ask for their papers, that’s not America, that’s not freedom,” Grose said.
The discussion with Grose became heated at some points. When Grose used the term “illegal aliens” one man shouted, “no person is illegal.”
David Kunz of the Peace and Social Concerns Committee was glad to have another viewpoint brought up but was still disturbed by the circumstances.
“I did appreciate hearing his side but what is he going to use that recording for? If he was recording it he had a reason,” said Kunz.
At the conclusion of the discussion, Grose said, “I was not here with any intention of disrupting a meeting.”
In the end, both parties left hearing the other viewpoint, but with not much agreement.
For Grose, one of the biggest issues is that he feels the other side’s argument is based on emotion and not facts.
For those of the Frederick Friends Meeting, they said they want people in Frederick to become aware of the issues facing their friends and neighbors.
“We hope going forward that people will be awakened that right here in Frederick County we have an important part of our community...that are being harmed by this agreement,” said Ford.
“We want people to feel welcome here [Frederick County], we don’t want them to feel threatened, we don’t want them to be worried,” said Kunz. “We don’t want them to have to watch their every single little tiny step.”