WESTMINSTER, Md. (WJZ) -- A Maryland city tied up in the national debate over immigration. A plan to house some of the thousands of undocumented children who have crossed the border in Westminster has been scrapped---but now a hate crime has once again thrust the small north Carroll County city back into the spotlight.
Meghan McCorkell has more on the investigation.
Early Saturday morning, police were called out after someone found a controversial message spray painted on the front of a Westminster building.
Right along busy Route 97 in Westminster, a misspelled message written on graffiti on the wall of the former US Army Reserve building.
"It's obnoxious and I don't want to see that driving through here," said Ben Ganjon.
"I hate to say it but it doesn't really surprise me," said Melissa Priebe.
The federal government was considering a plan to house some of the tens of thousands of children who have illegally crossed the border inside the Westminster facility. The proposal drew fire from county leaders.
"Our citizens are furious over this. They're angry and they're very concerned," said Carroll County Commissioner Richard Rothchild.
At the same time that the feds scrapped that plan, the wall was spray painted.
Since the graffiti first appeared this weekend, someone has already come out to paint over it. Now state police are investigating the vandalism as a hate crime.
"The tone of the crime is what we're really concerned with. Again, you are targeting a specific group just based on their nationality," said Sgt. Marc Black, Maryland State Police.
Some in Westminster say the graffiti is not the opinion of the entire town.
"We have to have mercy for these folks. You know they're trying to escape a horrible situation and we need to have love and mercy for them," said Donna Krommer.
In a statement, Senator Ben Cardin said, "There needs to be a respectful debate about immigration but we cannot allow such a conversation to devolve to the lowest common denominator of xenophobia and ignorance."
He calls the graffiti appalling.
State police are asking anyone who knows anything about the vandalism to come forward.
According to Maryland law, hate crimes are punishable by up to three years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
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