Immigration issue overshadows rape

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Outrage and sadness erupted after a girl reported a rape in a Rockville High School bathroom on March 16.

But the unity of emotion following the rape of a 14-year-old student comes to a crashing halt when the topic of immigration surfaces.


Immigrant fear continues

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Local children apparently afraid while at school parents will be deported

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Anxious calls of concern are coming into both the Montgomery School District’s main offices and individual schools as parents work to deal with their fears about whether they or their children might be deported due to their immigration status.

“Parents are concerned,” said Montgomery County Public School District Spokesman Derek Turner. “We’ve heard from up-county, and we’ve heard from down-county,” he said, explaining that the calls aren’t just coming from a few isolated areas.


County hears more on fatal fire

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Silver Spring fire 8-11-16An internal audit was held on the County's response to the Flower Branch Apartments fire that killed seven and displaced over 100 people last August. FILE PHOTO  

During their internal audit about the County’s response to the fire at Flower Branch Apartments in Silver Spring that killed seven and displaced more than 100 people last August, County officials did not interview victims from the fire.

At last week’s council meeting, officials from several County agencies briefed the Council on an internal audit of the County’s response in providing services in the immediate aftermath of the fire. The audit listed several recommendations for the County, including a need for better communication between County staff.

Council member Tom Hucker (D-5) said the audit was disappointing and criticized County officials for not interviewing the victims of the fire who received the County’s services.

“It seems strange to me, as an approach, that you would just talk to County agencies and the non-profits we fund, but not the actual victims,” Hucker said.


“Wait and See”

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County leaders confused and angry over sanctuary executive order


ANNAPOLIS – Local officials say it is unclear whether President Donald Trump’s recent executive order on sanctuary cities will cost the county federal funding over its immigration enforcement policies.

Last week, Trump signed an executive order saying localities that fail to comply with federal immigration law will not receive public funds, sparking outrage among immigration advocates and confusion among public officials.

The executive order specifically mentions “sanctuary jurisdiction,” a vague but widely used term that generally refers to localities that do not assist in enforcing federal immigration law. State and local officials said it is unclear if the executive order would apply to Montgomery County or to the State of Maryland.

“Look, no one has been able to figure out from what he’s (Trump) issued so far and how exactly it plays out,” said County Council member Marc Elrich (D-at large). “We don’t know whether we are inside the rules or outside the rules.”


Flower Branch still faces multiple safety problems

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While Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett (D) signed a bill to protect tenants’ rights into law Monday, housing code violations still plague some of the County’s lower end housing.

The County Council passed Bill 19-15 unanimously on Nov. 29 and is requiring the Department of Housing and Community Affairs (DHCA) to conduct annual inspections of rental properties in the County.

But as the Leggett signed Bill 19-15 into law, conditions for many in the County have not improved.


Holiday cheer missing as CASA helps those without this season

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holiday party groceriesBags of groceries were made available at a holiday party for local apartment residents at the Pine Ridge Community Center. PHOTO BY SUZANNE POLLAK  

More than 250 residents from several apartment complexes on Piney Branch Road in Silver Spring waited patiently as they stood in line Saturday night to receive a hot dinner and a large bag of groceries to take home.

CASA hosted a holiday party at its Pine Ridge Community Center on Piney Branch Road, which featured music and a bonfire in the parking lot and wall-to-wall people inside waiting to give their names and addresses so that they could receive a bag of food overflowing with potatoes and green vegetables. The food was donated by Priority Partners and area food banks.

There was little room for mingling and even less holiday cheer as attendees snaked around rooms, into hallways and around the bags of food until it was their turn.

It’s been a rough few months for many of them, especially since the explosion and fire at Flower Branch Apartments. Seven of their neighbors lost their lives, and another 100 saw their homes and belongings destroyed.


"A Serious Problem"

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Hundreds of violations found in apartment complex that burned in August

Silver Spring fire 8-11-16This fire in August led to the loss of seven lives in Silver Spring.  FILE PHOTO  

SILVER SPRING - Nearly three months to the day after a fire at the Flower Branch Apartments cost the lives of seven residents, county housing inspectors found 860 housing code violations in 362 units.

“There’s no excuse for these code violations and for the number of citations that have been issued, obviously, and they need to be corrected immediately. I’m really disappointed,” said County Council President Nancy Floreen (D-At large).

The Nov. 9 inspection by the Department of Housing and Community Affairs (DHCA) revealed some of the same housing code violations the apartment complex had when it was last inspected in 2013, including 31 cases of infestations by mice, rats, roaches or bedbugs.


"This...Is About Justice"

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Flower Branch residents file suit after apartment fire claims seven lives

WASHINGTON – With chants of “justice” and “yes we can,” Flower Branch Apartments tenants announced Wednesday they filed two lawsuits against Washington Gas and Kay Management after a fire killed seven people and displaced about 100 others.

The Silver Spring tenants spoke outside the office of WGL Energy, which owns Washington Gas. The law firms Bailey and Glasser, LLC and Gupta Wessler, PLLC are representing the tenants.

 “Seven people died but no one is saying who is responsible for this. Neither the state, the county nor the federal government has stepped forward to the victims to give them the answers they are entitled to,” said Gustavo Torres, executive director of CASA an immigrant advocacy organization.


Flower Branch tenants plan to sue after fatal fire

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Flower Branch fire 9-7-16CASA Executive Director Gustavo Torres speaks in front of tenants who lost their homes during the fatal Flower Branch Apartments fire last month. He announced the tenants plan to file a lawsuit seeking damages but they did not announce who they planned to sue. PHOTO BY MARK POETKER  

SILVER SPRING – Saying they seek justice and compensation, residents from the Flower Branch Apartments said they will file a law suit after an Aug. 10 fire killed seven people and destroyed one of the apartment buildings.

“I believe that it is very important to make sure that those families, these families are going to be compensated by what happened,” said Gustavo Torres, executive director of CASA, who spoke for the residents Wednesday at a press conference by the Arliss Street site. “But we are also going to make sure that bring justice for our community and all, for all of our communities. That for us is very important.”

Torress said the residents hired the law firms Bailey-Glasser and Gupta-Wessler to represent them.

Cary Joshi, an attorney representing from Bailey-Glasser, said the firm plans on conducting an investigation to determine who they believe is responsible before filing suit.

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