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Two Montgomery County residents have sued County Executive Marc Elrich (D) and the director of the Department of Health and Human Services for providing direct financial assistance to undocumented immigrants who live in the county and are not eligible for state or federal stimulus checks.

The plaintiffs, Sharon Bauer and Richard Jurgena, are represented by the conservative legal group Judicial Watch. In a lawsuit filed May 8, they allege that the county’s new Emergency Assistance Relief Payment program violates federal law.

The lawsuit seeks an injunction to prohibit the county from proceeding. A remote hearing is scheduled Friday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland.

In April, the county approved the expenditure of $5 million to fund a one-time emergency assistance check of up to $1,450 to low-income families that do not qualify for the federal stimulus check or state benefits.

Recipients could include dependent children above the age of 16 and those without Social Security numbers, such as undocumented residents.

Bauer and Jurgena argue that this allocation of taxpayer dollars is a violation of federal law, which prohibits undocumented residents from receiving state and local benefits unless allowed by state law. In Maryland, the lawsuit argues, lawmakers have not explicitly granted this permission.

“Montgomery County Executive Elrich and the Montgomery County Council have no legal authority on their own to spend taxpayer money for cash payments to illegal aliens,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a statement.

In an interview, Elrich declined to comment specifically on the lawsuit but said the county is prepared to “defend what it has done.” He likened the government’s actions to churches providing food to those in need without asking where they came from.

When announcing the program a month ago, Elrich said it “was designed to provide a hand up to people who might not otherwise qualify for other kinds of assistance.”

“Covid-19 continues to take a toll on our economy, and this program is one way to help stabilize families that are fighting to survive,” he added.

Montgomery County Council President Sidney Katz (D-District 3) said the county’s all-Democratic council would not comment on pending litigation but noted that “it is disgraceful that any group would seek to deny essential assistance for children and families who are struggling to make ends meet.”

Bauer, who is listed online as the president of the Montgomery County Federation for Republican Women, deferred questions to her attorney at Judicial Watch. Jurgena is the former chair of the Montgomery County Republican Party, which did not respond to requests for comment.

In 2019, Elrich issued a sweeping executive order banning all executive-branch departments in the county of 1 million, including police, from assisting in federal immigration investigations.

The decision was criticized by the White House and the acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, leading to local backlash that culminated in dueling protests outside the county government headquarters in Rockville.

The county also has expanded its pilot program to fund legal representation for immigrants facing deportation proceedings.

Judicial Watch filed a similar lawsuit in April against California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) for allocating $75 million in taxpayer dollars to a relief fund targeted at the state’s undocumented residents. A Los Angeles Superior Court rejected the request for a temporary restraining order last week, but Fitton said the organization is appealing the decision.

Meanwhile, in the District, legal advocates have filed a lawsuit on behalf of millions of U.S.-born children who were denied federal stimulus checks because one or both of their parents are undocumented immigrants.

The lawsuit alleges that a provision in the federal Cares Act is unconstitutional because it withholds relief payments from parents who file taxes using an individual taxpayer identification number — a substitute for a Social Security number that is often used by undocumented residents.