As Prince William County cracks down on its illegal immigrant population, some residents in Montgomery County worry their property values and quality of life will take a hit as the undocumented come streaming across the Potomac, invited by the county’s more lenient approach.
“There are a lot of houses on the market in my neighborhood,” Silver Spring resident Hessie Harris said. “I quake in my boots every time a new family moves in.”
Harris said she’s worried illegal immigrants will move in, putting too many people in one house and drive down property values. The number of complaints for overcrowding in county homes has already jumped, going up by more than 20 percent in 2007 from 2006.
Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett has described his approach to immigration as coming from the standpoint of compassion. County police don’t question immigration status and the county funds labor centers where immigrants—legal and illegal—congregate daily looking for jobs.
“It’s logical that they’d come here,” [Paul Mendez of Wheaton] said, adding he’s worried crime will start to rise as a result.
Montgomery County is already in demographic flux, as its share of Maryland‘s wealthiest residents drops and lower income groups move in. In 1998, Montgomery County was responsible for 41.3 percent of the state’s income tax returns from people earning more than $200,000; by 2005 that had dropped to 37 percent.
The county’s foreign born population has also spiked, from 18.6 percent in 1990, to 29.4 percent in 2006.