by Jason Hopkins
Montgomery County, Maryland, a sanctuary jurisdiction that garnered national attention in 2019 for a string of alleged rapes by illegal aliens, is being sued for allotting millions in coronavirus relief funds to its undocumented community.
Two residents in Montgomery County sued county executive Marc Elrich, a Democrat, and the director of the Department of Health and Human Services for green-lighting a program that provides direct financial assistance to illegal aliens who live in the county, but are not eligible for any federal or state relief, according to The Washington Post.
In a lawsuit filed May 8, plaintiffs Richard Jurgena and Sharon Bauer said that Montgomery County’s Emergency Assistance Relief program violates federal law. The two residents are being represented by Judicial Watch, a conservative legal organization.
The Montgomery County Council, made up entirely of Democrats, unanimously approved a $5 million program in April that provides direct cash assistance to low-income residents. The Emergency Assistance Relief Payment program, a response to the economic turmoil caused by coronavirus, was introduced at the request of the county executive.
The funds dole out a one-time assistance check of up to $1,450 to low-income households that don’t otherwise qualify for state or federal benefits. Notably, eligible recipients include those who do not have a Social Security number, which would qualify certain illegal aliens.
Jurgena and Bauer argue that this program violates federal law, which forbids illegal aliens from obtaining local and state benefits unless state law specifically allows it. The lawsuit pointed out that the Maryland government has not given Montgomery County explicit permission to implement this program.
“Montgomery County Executive Elrich and the Montgomery County Council have no legal authority on their own to spend taxpayer money for cash payments to illegal aliens,” Tom Fitton, the president of Judicial Watch, said in a statement.
The lawsuit marked the latest public ire Montgomery County’s government has received for how it deals with those living in the country unlawfully. The county is widely regarded as a “sanctuary county” for its refusal to completely work with federal immigration authorities.
Elrich signed “The Promoting Community Trust Executive Order” in July 2019, an order that barred county police from asking individuals about their immigration status and largely prohibited them from cooperating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. The county had already refused to honor ICE detainer requests, and the new order was the latest sanctuary measure enacted by a deep-blue locality in response to the Trump administration’s crackdown on illegal immigration.
However, Montgomery County and its new sanctuary policy soon became the focus of national media attention after a string of illegal aliens were accused of rape or sexual abuses — some of them had even been released back into the public after Montgomery County authorities refused to honor ICE detainer requests placed on them.
Amid the backlash, Elrich ultimately backpedaled on the order. In November, a county representative said ICE agents would be allowed to pick up wanted illegal aliens in the Montgomery County jail, but only in “identified areas.”
However, local authorities are being accused of not fully committing to this policy.
A person familiar with the new process told the Daily Caller News Foundation that Montgomery County is, in fact, notifying ICE when a wanted illegal alien is due to be released from their jail, but that these calls are taking place at the last minute, giving agents no realistic timeframe to arrive at the jail and make an apprehension. The source spoke off the record to discuss the matter more freely.
Beyond its refusal to help ICE agents, Montgomery County has also expanded a pilot program that provides legal representation for foreign nationals challenging deportation orders. The county has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to the program.
As for the lawsuit, Elrich said Montgomery County is prepared to “defend what it has done,” according to WaPo. In another comment, Montgomery County Council President Sidney Katz said that “it is disgraceful that any group would seek to deny essential assistance for children and families who are struggling to make ends meet.”
The plaintiffs are seeking an injunction to stop the county from moving forward with the program. A remote hearing is planned for Friday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland.
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Jason Hopkins is a reporter for the Daily Caller News Foundation.