Miami-Dade commission approves mayor’s decision against sanctuary city

MIAMI (WSVN) - The Miami-Dade Commission has approved Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s decision to cooperate with the Trump administration’s immigration orders in a 9-to-3 vote.

Nearly one month after Gimenez ordered local officials to cooperate with the Trump administration, county commissioners approved Gimenez’s order to comply with the federal government, despite pleas from residents and local officials to do otherwise.

“Our police officers will continue to protect and serve all Miami-Dade County residents regardless of immigration status,” explained Gimenez as he commented on the results, “and our residents should feel confident that their county police department will continue to honorably serve our community. A memo I sent on January 26 does not change that, and I would like us to work together as a community to ensure that every single resident understands that law-abiding immigrants here in Miami-Dade County have no reason to be afraid.”

Friday’s Miami-Dade County commission meeting at the Stephen P. Clark Center was overflowing with hundreds of South Florida residents hoping to address these immigration issues with Gimenez head on.

The room was so full that organizers had to set up an overflow room in the lobby area where attendees could watch the meeting on a TV screen as it happened live.

Over 150 concerned residents, including children, signed up to speak during the meeting. More demonstrators than usual have been consistently attending commission meetings since Gimenez’s decision.

“We are an immigrant nation, and we, as Miami, we are the capital of immigrants, the capital of immigrants,” said citizen Rafael Velasquez, “and I want you, whatever you do, to remember that.”

Tim Canova, who ran for the seat of U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz during the Democratic primary, last year, had his chance to speak during the meeting. “It’s totally unnecessary, overbroad and vindictive,” he said about the policy.

The public comment segment of the meeting went on until the afternoon. The vote followed hours of emotional public comment on both sides of the issue.

“Mayor Gimenez is right,” said one attendee. “He’s upholding the rule of law.”

Another said the decision can negatively affect Miami as it exists. “It’s undermining and ripping the fabric of this community,” she said.

One other supporter of the vote spoke his piece. “If you want to be here as a citizen and obey the law, then come here legally,” he said.

After the public comment, commissioners had to decide whether to uphold the mayor’s decision or move in a different direction.

Ultimately, the commission decided to uphold Gimenez’s decision.

Attendees critical of the commission’s decision said Miami-Dade County is giving up its status as a so-called “sanctuary city.” “People risked their lives to get here,” said Lourdes Obyrne. “They don’t come here knowing what’s going to happen, but there’s hope.”

Last month, President Donald Trump signed an executive order threatening to end federal funding of sanctuary cities that decline to cooperate with federal immigration authorities. The order affects how long immigrant prisoners are kept in jail for federal reasons.

In fear of risking millions of dollars in federal funding, Gimenez signed an order of his own: He ordered the director of his corrections department to begin honoring all requests made by the Trump administration.

The immigration debate continues to be a contentious issue for the Trump administration. In a draft memo obtained and released by the Associated Press, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly said he is looking to mobilize up to 100,000 National Guard troops to round up illegal immigrants in up to 11 states.

Wasserman Schulz vowed to fight any attempt to make it a reality. “That smacks of Brownshirts that were the most terrorizing force during the Nazi regime, and I don’t use that term lightly,” she said.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer immediately denied the report, saying, “That is 100 percent not true. It is false. It is irresponsible to be saying this.”

After Friday meeting, Gimenez said he wanted to set the record straight about what the order means.

“It was targeted to people who are arrested by the Miami-Dade Police Department, not for immigration crimes, because that’s not what we do,” said Gimenez, “who the federal government is requesting a detainer for that person has to show probable cause, and then we will retain that individual for 48 hours. And then, if immigration does not pick them up, they will be released. That’s all that we did here in Miami-Dade County. Nothing more, nothing less.”

Since Gimenez’s announcement, protests and rallies have taken place across the county. However, Friday’s commission meeting was the public’s first chance to have their voices heard in a political arena.

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