“I have problems with illegal immigration, but that’s not the issue,” Fenati added. “The issue is that they’re pushing these kids into classrooms with younger children.”
Speaker after speaker criticized U.S. policies toward illegal immigration that have allowed more than 150,000 unaccompanied minors from Central America into the country in recent years, crowding immigration courts and public schools. They blamed Montgomery County’s controlling Democratic Party leadership for “sanctuary” policies that prohibit government employees from cooperating with federal immigration authorities, except in cases involving serious crimes.
“This was probably the most terrible incident that I’ve heard of in 60 years in Montgomery County,” Robin Ficker, a Republican candidate for county executive, said about the alleged rape. “That shows Montgomery County is not going the right way.”
Across Maryland Avenue, a smaller group of demonstrators tried to drown out the protest, chanting “No hate, no fear, immigrants are welcome here!” That was met with counter chants of “U.S.A., U.S.A.!”
On both sides, however, some demonstrators said they were worried how a traumatic incident involving a 14-year-old girl has taken what they see as distracting political overtones.
Ann Foxen, who was among the counterprotesters, said community reaction to the rape case “has just descended into something irrational.” “It’s a terribly unfortunate incident,” said Foxen, 70. “But it isn’t something that just an immigrant would do.”