A rape case at a high school in Maryland has reached national attention, after making its way into a White House press briefing on Tuesday. Here's everything you need to know about the Rockville rape allegations, because the circumstances of the incident have only raised more concerns about the ongoing debate of immigration reform in the United States.
On Friday, Montgomery County police arrested two students from Rockville High School for allegedly raping a classmate in the bathroom of the school, according to local FOX 5 news affiliate. The victim is a 14-year-old girl, who has not been publicly identified. The alleged suspects in this crime are Jose Montano, 17, and Henry Sanchez, 18. Public affairs director for the Montgomery County State Attorney’s Office Ramon Korionoff sent the following statement to Romper:
At this time Jose Montano and Henry Sanchez are being held without bond and charged with one count of first degree rape and two counts of first degree sex offense each. They are both charged as adults. Should they be convicted they would be facing a life term in prison.
The victim is this case is reportedly known to one of the suspects. The very graphic police report indicates that Montano allegedly approached the victim at school in the hallway on Thursday morning, asking for sex. When the victim declined, the report says that the two suspects allegedly forced her into the boys bathroom, where she was allegedly raped.
Here's what is known so far — and why it's so important.
One Suspect Is An Undocumented Immigrant
What has brought this case to national attention is that Sanchez is supposedly an undocumented immigrant and citizen from Guatemala who arrived in the United States seven months ago. He is considered a "substantial flight risk," according to Montgomery County Assistant States Attorney Rebecca MacVittie, speaking in court Friday. U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officials have issued an immigration detainer on Sanchez as a result.
FOX News reported that Sanchez was allegedly stopped by U.S. Border Patrol agents in August of last year for entering the country illegally from Mexico; he was ordered to attend a hearing, but it had not yet been scheduled. Meanwhile, Montano is from El Salvador who arrived in the country eight months ago, FOX News reported, but no further details of his citizenship or immigration status have been released by ICE or Montgomery County officials given that he is a minor. Romper was unable to reach the families of the alleged suspects for comment.
The unidentified victim is also an immigrant, however, she and her family came to the country legally, according to court documents.
Rockville Wants To Become An Official "Sanctuary City"
Just a week prior to the rape, the Rockville, Maryland City Council held a meeting with residents to discuss issuing a formal ordinance declaring Rockville a "sanctuary city" for undocumented immigrants. According to WTOP, Rockville police have had an unwritten policy of not asking about immigration status during police stops or arrests, as well as not seeking help from ICE officials during such stops — and the city council wants to make that policy official.
While city officials have been largely in favor of the idea, it has been met with opposition by some residents as well. A Change.org petition protesting the potential sanctuary city ordinance has gained over 600 signatures as of Wednesday morning.
The White House Has Weighed In
At Tuesday's White House press briefing, press secretary Sean Spicer spoke about the Rockville rape case in responding to reporters's questions. Spicer said:
Let’s remember the human side of this, that this is a tragic event that no child, no person, no parent should ever have to deal with. School should be a place where a parent puts their child on a bus or drops them off … and knows that they are safe. The idea that this occurred is shocking, disturbing, horrific, and whatever words someone can think of.
Spicer also acknowledged the issue of immigration as it relates to the case, noting that while "education is a state-run and a local-run issue," there is "cause for concern." He acknowledged that this case could potentially impact Rockville's attempt to become a sanctuary city, saying "I think the city should look at its policies, and I think that this is something authorities are going to have to look at."
What The Rockville Case Could Mean For Immigrants
In light of last week's crime, the Rockville rape case has sparked a fierce debate both within and outside of Rockville about what rights undocumented immigrants deserve when they come to the country illegally, despite their reasons for leaving their home countries. The other side of the debate focuses on what protections U.S. citizens feel they should have from violent crimes committed by immigrants in their communities, a narrative pushed by the Trump Administration that's affecting U.S. policy.
Regarding the perception that immigrants are making the United States less safe, real life says otherwise. Research shows that undocumented immigrants commit fewer crimes than U.S. citizens (even in proportion to how many undocumented immigrants live in the U.S.). What happened in Rockville is an isolated incident that can't tip the scales on actual facts. Just as not all Muslims are terrorists, not all undocumented immigrants are "criminals, rapists, and drug dealers, — as much as Trump would have you believe. Even so, the White House will no doubt pounce on the Rockville rape case to make its case for continued and harsh immigration reforms. Mark my words: Tuesday's White House press briefing won't be the last time Spicer weighs in on the Rockville case.
There is no doubt that what happened to this 14-year-old girl is a horrible crime, and the alleged suspects deserve the full punishment of the law. But given the complexities of the case, it's important to let the courts render judgment before making drastic changes to U.S. immigration policy based on a single incident.