ROCKVILLE, Md. (ABC7) — Three months after Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich (D) banned U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement from accessing secure portions of the county jail, the Elrich administration has quietly reversed the policy, in part.
Effective immediately, Montgomery County correctional officers have been instructed to grant ICE clearance to "identified areas" of the jail to "ensure that transfers are conducted in a safe environment," a Montgomery County spokesman confirmed to ABC7 Friday evening.
That level of cooperation, however, mandates that ICE submit an immigration detainer and arrive at the jail along Seven Locks Road in Rockville prior to the defendant's scheduled release time.
The inmate discharge process can take less than an hour. In other instances, it can take nearly half a day. That wide range in time is based on numerous factors including jail staffing, inmate population, and home address verification checks.
Should ICE fail to submit the proper detainer paperwork — or simply get caught in traffic on Interstate 95 — Montgomery County will continue to free undocumented immigrants via the jail lobby, regardless of the charge/s they stand accused of.
“We’re an hour’s drive from Baltimore, assuming everybody [at ICE is] just sitting around in an office in Baltimore,” Elrich told reporters during a late August press conference. “The idea that they can’t get here is ludicrous.”
READ MORE: Political fireworks on display in Montgomery County amid undocumented immigrant rape cases
Despite issuing a handful of verbal jabs at that summer press conference, Elrich confessed he was considering rolling back his ICE jail ban. Although it remains unclear when the controversial policy formally reverted, law enforcement sources tell ABC7 that local-federal collaboration occurred on October 21.
On that day, undocumented immigrant Jose Reyes Alvarez-Vasquez, 42, of Gaithersburg, managed to post bond on charges of sexual abuse of a minor, attempted second-degree rape and three counts of third-degree sex offense.
Sources say Montgomery County jailers notified ICE about Alvarez-Vasquez’s imminent release, prompting federal agents to beeline to Montgomery County where they took the Mexican national into custody within a secure portion of the jail, free of bystanders.
According to court documents, Alvarez-Vasquez began to molest his stepdaughter in 2013. She was nine-years-old at the time. The sexual abuse reportedly continued until last year when the girl, now 14, became depressed and started harming herself. Shortly thereafter, the girl told her mother what had been taking place.
"[The victim's] mother confronted suspect who denied the allegations," police wrote in court documents. "Suspect was kicked out of the household, but later returned to live with the family."
The victim told investigators about three separate instances where Alvarez-Vasquez touched her private areas. In one case the girl was in bed. In another, she was playing hide and go seek with her siblings. The victim described a fourth encounter where Alvarez-Vasquez tried to remove her clothing and force sex. The girl managed to kick the five-foot-eight, 160-pound man and then ran away.
"He tried to put it in and I felt it," the victim told investigators.
During an interview with detectives, Alvarez-Vasquez denied inappropriately touching the victim or attempting to rape her.
"He stated that the touching could have been an accident or [the victim] could have misunderstood the situation," police noted.
On October 10, Montgomery County District Court Judge Amy Bills granted Alvarez-Vasquez a $50,000 (post 10 percent bond). Eleven days later, Alvarez-Vasquez managed to secure the necessary $5,000 for his release, triggering Montgomery County to call ICE.
According to court documents, Alvarez-Vasquez has eight children and has worked for a Sterling, Va. construction company for the last five years.
The 42-year-old faces up to 75 years in prison for his alleged transgressions. His next court hearing is scheduled for November 8, at 10 a.m. in Montgomery County District Court. No defense attorney is listed in court paperwork.
Elrich's immigration policy continues to prohibit ICE agents from entering secure portions of the jail for any reason aside from pre-authorized custody transfers. ICE agents are also banned from non-public areas of all county-owned facilities to include libraries, police stations and recreation centers.
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