This last month has been a particularly horrific one for residents of Montgomery County, Maryland — a sanctuary city for illegal immigrants just 20 miles from the White House.
In the last month alone, at least four illegal immigrants in the county have been charged with rape. The attacks are a part of a reported 4-year rise in rapes in Montgomery County.
Montgomery County Police arrested 28-year-old Carlos Palacios-Amaya on July 25, and 29-year-old Mauricio Barrera-Navidad on July 26. Both men were charged with second-degree rape for repeatedly raping an 11-year-old girl over the course of several months. (RELATED: 11-Year-Old Allegedly Raped Repeatedly By Two Illegal Immigrants)
Both men are illegal immigrants from El Salvador. Barrera-Navidad was reportedly issued a “final order of removal” by a judge in 2016. Palacios-Amaya was deported at least once, in 2014, and ICE considers him a “repeat immigration violator.”
WJLA’s Kevin Lewis, who has been particularly dogged in chasing these stories, reported the details of the assaults:
In September 2018, the victim was introduced to her older brother’s friend, Palacios-Amaya. Over the course of the next few months, the then 27-year-old man raped the middle schooler on multiple occasions, authorities allege. The victim recalled one instance where Palacios-Amaya “used his cell phone to video record the two of them having sex,” police noted in court documents.
The victim told the social worker that Palacios-Amaya would often pressure her not to attend school so that she could stay home while her parents were at work. That gave Palacios-Amaya unsupervised access to the girl.
Investigators say while reviewing the victim’s cell phone, they located numerous photographs of Palacios-Amaya with the girl.
The other suspect, Barrera-Navidad, reportedly attended the victim’s older brother’s birthday party on July 2018. The celebration took place at a mobile home park in Germantown.
At one point in the evening, Barrera-Navidad and the 11-year-old victim entered a bedroom. According to police, Barrera-Navidad raped the girl and then continued to communicate with her via cell phone for an undisclosed period of time thereafter.
Authorities only found out about the rapes when the girl tearfully revealed them to a social worker, Lewis reported.
When Immigration and Customs Enforcement becomes aware that local officials have taken an illegal immigrant into custody, the agency often issues a “detainer,” which is a written request to the jail, asking that officials keep the suspect in custody for up to 48 hours beyond his or her release date. That gives ICE time to take custody of the suspect, if necessary.
ICE has issued detainers for both men in this case. Whether Montgomery County will actually honor those detainers appears to be an open question.
Just days prior to their arrests, on July 22, Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich signed an executive order prohibiting county officials — under threat of termination — from asking residents about their immigration status or cooperating with ICE. The order also banned ICE agents from entering any “non-public space within a government facility.”
That day, Elrich, insisted that the order would help county residents “feel safe and welcome.”
NEW: 28yo Luis Perez-Giron of Montgomery Village, Md. molested + tried to rape a 12yo girl while his wife was in labor at the hospital, police say.
The victim fought back. Perez-Giron ultimately gave up, but not before allegedly threatening to rape the girl “when she turned 13.” pic.twitter.com/WAP6Pkuswq
— Kevin Lewis (@ABC7Kevin) August 22, 2019
“Enforcing immigration law is in the sole responsibility of the federal government of the United States,” Elrich added, suggesting it was a waste of the county’s “limited resources” to cooperate with ICE.
Asked about the policy by WJLA’s Lewis, Elrich accused ICE of committing terrorism.
“If ICE thinks it’s really important, they can probably get here. You know, they’ve got cars. They know where the jail is. They know where the pre-release center is… It’s not my job to do that part of their job,” Elrich stated with a slight grin on his face. “If ICE manages to be outside the [jail] door when someone walks outside the door, I can’t do anything about that, but if they ask us on anything other than a judicial order, then we’re not holding them.”
Elrich further explained that President Donald Trump’s directives to ICE have discernable parallels to terrorism.
“It’s really partly the definition of terrorism, to take the civilian population and subject them to constant fear, that is terrorism in its basic form,” Elrich remarked.
But as the news of the 11-year-old girl’s multiple rapes broke on August 13, Montgomery County officials — to include the once-flippant Elrich — were out of town and out of touch. The group was busy hanging out beachside at a summer conference in Ocean City, Md.
The first statement Montgomery County issued came over 24 hours later, when the county’s public information director, Barry Hudson, brazenly blamed the federal government for failing to catch the illegal immigrants.
The county is now blaming the federal government and refusing to weigh in on if its sanctuary atmosphere attracted the two suspects to the area.
“If the system failed, it failed on the federal government,” said Barry Hudson, Public Information Director.
Hudson spoke with FOX 5’s Tisha Lewis due to several county leaders being away at the Maryland Association of Counties Summer Conference in Ocean City.
Fox 5’s Tisha Lewis hit Hudson with the obvious follow-up: “But should it be the responsibility of Montgomery County? What do you say to parents, people who live here, who feel like their children are not safe? Who feel like they’re not safe? Because the county has essentially washed their hands of oversight concerning undocumented immigrants or anyone who is committing a crime.”
“The county has not washed its hands of anything,” Hudson replied.
Later that evening, Elrich finally released a statement as well, suggesting that the county may actually honor ICE detainers this time.
In a written statement released at 8:50 p.m. Wednesday, Elrich called the alleged, repeated rape of an 11-year-old girl “horrible.” Elrich further expressed confidence that “justice will be served” within the court system.
But will Montgomery County abide by the immigration detainers ICE has lodged against Palacios-Amaya and Barrera-Navidad? Elrich says yes, explaining that his new executive order blocking ICE’s access to county lockups does not pertain to cases involving “serious crimes.”
It remains unclear if county leaders have compiled a list of “serious crimes” or if they are handling ICE detainers on a subjective, case-by-case basis. ABC7 has asked for clarity on no less than three occasions dating back to July 25. No answers have been provided as of this story’s publication.
The confusion about what Montgomery County considers a “serious crime” isn’t only bugging reporters. Even the cops are stumped. “I don’t understand when we cooperate with ICE and when we don’t,” a senior Montgomery County law enforcement official told Kevin Lewis. “It’s very unclear.” (RELATED: Sanctuary County Will Work With ICE In Wake Of Alleged Child Rape By Illegal Aliens)
The mixed messages finally led to this explanation:
According to a Montgomery County spokesman, Elrich’s new immigration playbook allows [a] jailer to contact ICE should an undocumented immigrant post bond, but two conditions must be met:
- The defendant must be charged with or convicted of at least one “serious crime,” which Montgomery County defines as any felony under Maryland’s criminal statute: murder, rape, armed robbery, kidnapping etc…
- ICE must have previously filed an immigration detainer against the defendant in question.
Yet, Montgomery County has made clear it will not hold undocumented immigrants beyond the normal time it takes jailers to process their release. Depending on factors like corrections staffing, inmate population and address verifications, the release process can take one hour or an entire day. And so, it has become a race against the clock for ICE agents and defendants alike.
In other words, if an illegal immigrant charged with rape posts bond in Montgomery County, ICE agents in the Baltimore field office — nearly 50 miles away — have to race to catch the suspect before he disappears back into the community.
And that arrangement leads us to the case of 25-year-old Rodrigo Castro-Montejo. (RELATED: Sanctuary County Ignores ICE Detainer Request, Releases Alleged Rapist Back Into The Public)
Castro-Montejo is an illegal immigrant from El Salvador. He was charged in early August with second-degree rape and second-degree assault, for raping an intoxicated woman. He was released last week by Montgomery County after posting $1,000 in bond, despite having an ICE detainer on file.
ICE officials issued a terse statement after Castro-Montejo’s release:
“U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement lodged a detainer on Aug. 12 with the Montgomery County (Maryland) Detention Center on unlawfully present Salvadoran national Rodrigo Castro-Montejo following his arrest for rape and other related charges. On Aug. 13, the facility failed to honor the detainer, and released Castro from custody.”
After releasing that statement, ICE subsequently determined that Montgomery County officials did try to place a single phone call to “an ‘off-duty officer’ who was on ‘travel status’ and ‘outside of the area’ on the day of the incident.” That call went unanswered, and Castro-Montejo was released just 6 hours later.
Then on Monday night this week, news broke of yet another illegal immigrant rape case.
Montgomery County police have charged 26-year-old Kevin Mendoza with first-degree rape, attempted second-degree murder, and first-degree assault for brutally attacking a woman last Friday night. Mendoza is an illegal immigrant from Honduras.
Kevin Mendoza, age 26, has been arrested for the Friday, August 16, first-degree rape and attempted second-degree murder of an adult female that occurred at an apartment building in Silver Spring: https://t.co/zUQzT6oT2k
— Montgomery County Department of Police (@mcpnews) August 20, 2019
Police say Mendoza followed the woman into her apartment building, grabbing her as she unlocked the door and throwing her to the floor inside. The woman tried to scream and fight back, but Mendoza reportedly strangled her and punched her repeatedly in the face and head. He raped her beside a vending machine, according to the cops, while telling the woman, “You know you like this.” The entire attack was caught on surveillance camera.
It’s also worth noting that in each of these cases, it appears the victims were likely members of the same immigrant communities as the suspects. Experts say that’s the trend. And it means that rather than protecting their residents, Montgomery County’s leaders seem to be imperiling them.