ROCKVILLE, Md. (WJZ/AP) – As officials reported that one of two students charged with raping a 14-year-old girl in a Maryland high school bathroom entered the United States illegally, the crime became part of a national debate on immigration.
It’s a story that has left many outraged, including both the governor and White House press secretary. Both want to know how something like this could happen inside of a school.
It’s a crime that’s rattled all of Montgomery County.
“The schools here you know, they say they are safe but I guess they are not,” said Elena Machurk of Rockville. “We as parents send them to school to learn, not so things like this can happen. Where are the teachers? Where is the security? How could something like this happen?”
So appalling it even has the white house lashing out.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer, in response to a reporter’s question at Tuesday’s press briefing, called the crime “shocking, disturbing, horrific.”
“I think part of the reason that the president has made illegal immigration and crackdown such a big deal is because of tragedies like this,” he said.
Henry Sanchez, 18, and Jose Montano, 17, were charged in the Thursday assault at Rockville High School. The Washington Post reports that Sanchez lived in Guatemala until he was 17.
Police said a 14-year-old girl was walking the halls of Rockville High when she met 18-year-old Henry Sanchez and 17-year-old Jose Montano.
They said that’s when Montano asked the girl to walk with them and have sex. Police said when the 14-year-old girl refused to have sex, she was forced into the boy’s bathroom, into a stall where she was raped by both teens.
Matthew Bourke, spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said in a statement that a border patrol agent encountered Sanchez in Texas in August. Sanchez was ordered to appear before an immigration judge, Bourke said, but that appearance has not been scheduled. ICE has since lodged an immigration detainer against Sanchez.
According to court records, Montano, who was charged as an adult, was born in El Salvador, where he lived for 16 years. ICE officials would not discuss Montano’s immigration status because he is a juvenile.
Full statement from ICE regarding Henry Sanchez:
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) lodged an immigration detainer on Henry Sanchez-Milian, a citizen of Guatemala, on March 17, 2017, after he was arrested by Montgomery County Police on criminal charges. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) places detainers on individuals who have been arrested on local criminal charges and who are suspected of being deportable, so that ICE can take custody of those individuals when they are released from local custody.
According to U.S. Department of Homeland Security databases, in August 2016, Henry Sanchez-Milian was encountered by a border patrol agent in Rio Valley Grande, Texas, who determined the individual had unlawfully entered the United States from Mexico. Sanchez-Milian was issued a notice to appear in front of an immigration judge, which is currently waiting to be scheduled. This individual has no previous encounters with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Jack Smith, superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools, pushed back against the focus on the immigration status of the accused students.
“Some try to make this into an issue of immigration,” Smith said at a news conference Tuesday. “We would like to change the conversation.”
While expressing horror at the crime and repeatedly assuring parents that their children are safe at school, Smith said, “We serve every student who walks in the door. It is not only the right thing to do, it is the law.”
On Monday, Maryland’s House of Delegates approved a measure to prevent authorities from detaining immigrants to ask about their immigration status.
Governor Larry Hogan is now demanding answers as well.
“We have questions as this was allowed to happen, we have questions about what these individuals were doing in this school,” he said.
Some are honing in on the advanced ages of the two suspects.
“Why is an 18 year old man, in a 9th grade class with 13 and 14 year old girls? why was his status not know to these folks?” Hogan said.
County officials claim both teens hadn’t been in trouble before and had no prior record with police.
Hogan vowed to veto the bill if it reaches his desk.
Montgomery County school officials said they’re working with school officers and police to heighten security and make sure there are more protocols so something like this doesn’t happen again.
Preliminary hearings are set for Montano on March 31 and April 14 for Sanchez.
(© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)