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Illegal immigration concerns raised at forum

July 21, 2010|By ANDREW SCHOTZ
  • A crowd listens to speakers at a Tea Party forum Tuesday in Funkstown.
By Ric Dugan, Staff Photographer

Frederick County (Md.) Sheriff Charles A. "Chuck" Jenkins said Tuesday that his department's enforcement of illegal immigration doesn't involve racial profiling.

Speaking at a forum in Washington County, Jenkins said his deputies stop people who commit crimes or traffic offenses. Later, offenders are asked where they were born and in which country they're a citizen.

"What is so offensive about those two questions?" Jenkins asked.

Jenkins was one of two speakers at a forum held Tuesday at Dimensions, south of Funkstown. The other was Brad Botwin, the director of Help Save Maryland, a group that tries to combat illegal immigration.

Botwin expressed his frustration with the proliferation of illegal immigrants in Maryland and the services they receive, calling it "a cancer spreading across the state."

The event was held by the Hagerstown TEA (Taxed Enough Already) Party, whose founder, Neil Parrott, is running for state delegate.

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Jenkins said a federal program lets his department enforce immigration laws locally, becoming, as he described it, "a force multiplier."

Since the program started in Frederick County about two years ago, the department has served 679 immigration detainers, Jenkins said.

The effort led to at least 23 confirmed or suspected gang members being removed from the community, he said.

"Our borders are bleeding," Jenkins said. "They're wide open."

Botwin said his group applauds Jenkins for using the immigration program and wants other counties to adopt it, too.

He railed about the number of illegal immigrants being hired in Montgomery County, Md., and the day labor centers that help them.

He encouraged people to pressure elected officials who allow funding to groups whose work supports illegal immigrants.

About 125 people attended, including several elected officials and candidates or their representatives.

The discussion turned to campaign politics at the end, when Botwin criticized state Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, for a vote supporting $1 million for a multicultural center for Casa de Maryland, an advocacy group for Latinos and immigrants. Critics say the group helps illegal immigrants.

Botwin also blasted Munson for a subsequent letter to the editor criticizing Help Save Maryland and called him "a nut."

From the audience, Munson's daughter and campaign manager, Xanthy, stood up and challenged Botwin, saying her father has admitted to making a mistake with his vote.

She carried a written statement saying her father opposes illegal immigration.

Del. Christopher B. Shank, who is running in a GOP primary against Munson for his Senate seat, attended, but didn't speak during that exchange.

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