One of two students accused of raping a 14-year-old girl at Rockville High School came to the United States illegally in 2016, immigration officials say.
Nearly a week ago, 18-year-old Henry Sanchez and 17-year-old Jose Montano were charged with first-degree rape and two counts of first-degree sexual offense.
Sanchez, who is from Guatemala, came to the U.S. illegally in August and was encountered by a U.S. Border Patrol agent in Texas, federal immigration officials said. He was eventually released to live with his father.
"ICE examined the situation and decided to release him on his own recognizance and arranged for him to be flown to BWI at the expense of his father, where he was greeted by his father and where he's been living in Mintgomery County ever since," Sanchez' attorney, Andrew Jezic, told News4.
Jezic said Sanchez is not guilty.
"Nothing in the statement of charges mentions any kind of bruising or scratches or evidence of a fight," Jezic said.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials wouldn't comment on Montano, who is a minor but is charged criminally as an adult.
Federal law requires public schools to admit students even if they are in the country illegally.
The rape case has received national attention and has pushed Rockville High School into the ongoing immigration debate.
Protesters on both sides of the debate converged on a nearby elementary school Thursday during a visit by U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
The Montgomery County school system has been besieged by hundreds of racist and xenophobic calls. In response, schools beefed up police presence in an attempt to reassure the anxious community.
"Now we're starting to receive calls that are threatening, saying they're going to shoot up the illegals in our school," said Derek Turner, a school system spokesman. He noted that the calls marked "a whole new level of vitriol that we haven't seen before."
The Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs is demanding answers about why Sanchez-Milian was allowed to stay in the United States.
According to a letter written by Sen. Ron Johnson, the chairman of the committee, President of the National Border Patrol Council Brandon Judd testified that "if border patrol had properly done its job, neither Sanchez-Milian or Montano would have been present in the country to commit this heinous act."
"As a mother of two daughters and grandmother of four young girls, my heart aches for the young woman and her family at the center of these terrible circumstances,'' DeVos said in a statement before her visit to the elementary school. "We all have a common responsibility to ensure every student has access to a safe and nurturing learning environment.''
DeVos was there with Gov. Larry Hogan for National Reading Month.
"We can't condone any kind of hate speech like that and it's terrible and it's not something that should be allowed to go on," Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said.