Thursday, June 12, 2008

Gazette: Mayor wants mea culpa from Casa and NAACP

Mayor wants mea culpa from Casa and NAACP

by Keith L. Martin Staff Writer

Frederick’s mayor says Casa de Maryland and the local chapter of the NAACP owe the Sheriff’s Office an apology for spreading misinformation about their new immigration initiative.

Neither group, however, is ready to say they are sorry.

Mayor W. Jeff Holtzinger (R) called for a public apology at the end of the June 5 meeting with the city’s aldermen, citing ‘‘public misrepresentation” of an arrest detailed during a May press conference in opposition to the 287G initiative between the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

At the press conference, Rosibel David detailed how a sheriff’s deputy arrested her partner, Alejandro Rocha, leading to his detainment and possible deportation as an illegal immigrant. The story was used to illustrate Casa de Maryland’s displeasure with the initiative in which deputies check the immigration status of everyone arrested at the county jail.

A Gazette story on May 22, however, revealed that Maryland State Police, not the Sheriff’s Office, arrested Rocha. Referencing that article, Holtzinger said the group should be as forthcoming with an apology as it was in telling David’s story.

‘‘[The Sheriff’s Office] deserves an apology ... and I don’t think they have done anything that I’ve heard of in terms of a retraction or an apology,” Holtzinger said Friday. ‘‘...The city has a large Hispanic population, and [misinformation] puts a blight on our police trying to reach out to this population.”

Holtzinger also said he found Casa de Maryland’s claim that the ICE program costs the county $3.2 million annually ‘‘flat out disingenuous,” as the group estimated $2 million in salary costs for deputies checking immigration status.

The task, according to the Sheriff’s Office, does not require any additional cost. Deputies volunteered for the program and perform the checks as part of their regular duties.

The combination of misinformation, Holtzinger said, causes concerns with how the city’s Hispanic residents could view the initiative and a possible link to the Frederick Police Department, who are not involved in the initiative.

‘‘They [Casa de Maryland] are the ones causing the scare,” the mayor said. ‘‘...When you come out like they did and say those things, they are raising more fears than the Sheriff’s Office. ... It hurts the ability of our local police.”

In a statement e-mailed to The Gazette Tuesday, Hector Pop Chun, a community organizer who works on advocacy for Casa de Maryland, did not offer an apology to the Sheriff’s Office, choosing instead to praise the city’s efforts with its residents.

Chun has been active in working with the Frederick community regarding 287G, according to Mario Quiroz, communications specialist for the organization.

“We believe that Frederick County's policy is expensive and hurtful to the community,” Chun said. ‘‘On the other hand, we celebrate City of Frederick's policy of community policing as key to protect and interact with all of its residents. We are looking forward to keep building good relationships with Mayor Holtzinger to serve the growing immigrant community in Frederick.“
Jenkins said he appreciates the mayor’s request, and is not surprised that an apology was not forthcoming from Casa de Maryland.

‘‘Frankly, I don’t think I will get [an apology],” he said. ‘‘...I have not gotten one, and I don’t expect to. They are obviously against the program and made that clear up front that they won’t support it, but I won’t come off of it either.”

Jenkins said Casa de Maryland is ‘‘spreading fear” and hopes it does not ‘‘hamper any bridge building” by police with the Hispanic community or any other Frederick resident. ‘‘This is simply criminal enforcement,” he said. ‘‘...Casa paints it as profiling the [Hispanic] population.”
Frederick Police Chief Kim C. Dine said his department will continue its outreach efforts with all the residents of Frederick.

‘‘The real issue, in terms of immigration policy, is much deeper,” he said. ‘‘It goes to what the policies are and how they actually work versus ... the specific agencies involved.”

Dine added that all agencies need to continue outreach efforts. ‘‘The more we do that, the better everyone will be in understanding how things work [in law enforcement],” he said.

While praising his work with city police, Holtzinger also singled out Frederick County NAACP chapter president Guy Djoken, who stood alongside Casa de Maryland at the May press conference speaking out against the ICE program.

‘‘Guy needs to also step up and apologize as well,” Holtzinger said. ‘‘...He was in the middle of this, too, so he owes the sheriff and the Sheriff’s Office an apology.”

On Tuesday, Djoken said he felt The Gazette’s May 22 story was ‘‘inaccurate” because it indicated the Sheriff’s Office had ‘‘nothing to do with” Rocha’s situation.

In the end, he said, Rocha was brought to the county detention center, triggering the check of his residency status. The Sheriff’s Office runs the county jail.

‘‘[At the jail] 287G kicks in,” he said. ‘‘It doesn’t matter who takes you there. ... This policy is having a chilling effect on the people here ... so I stand by what I said that this policy is having a very serious impact from the calls I’m getting from people afraid to drive in Frederick County.”