MIAMI (WSVN) - Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez ordered county jails to comply with federal immigration authorities in a memo sent on Thursday, effectively ending the county’s status as an immigrant “sanctuary.”
The memo follows President Trump’s executive order, signed on Wednesday, threatening to cut federal funding to counties and cities that don’t work with federal immigration authorities.
Since 2013, Miami-Dade has not indefinitely detained inmates who may be in the country illegally unless reimbursed by the federal government. Now, Gimenez said, losing federal funding would not be worth those costs.
“We will comply with the federal government’s request to keep a prisoner in our custody that may be a illegal immigrant,” Gimenez said, “We’re taking away any kind of excuse or any kind of reasons to why the federal government could withhold any federal aid to Miami-Dade County.”
Gimenez said the county would still try to obtain federal reimbursement for the detainment.
Gimenez’s memo to Interim Correction’s Director Daniel junior read:
“Yesterday, January 25, 2017, President Donald J. Trump issued Executive Order: Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States.
In light of the provisions of the Executive Order, I direct you and your staff to honor all immigration detainer requests received from the Department of Homeland Security.
Miami-Dade County complies with federal law and intends to fully cooperate whit the federal government. I will partner with the Board of County Commissioners to address any issues necessary to achieve this end.”
Trump praised Gimenez’s decision in a tweet.
Trump’s order threatened to cut off federal grants worth millions. The mayors of some major “sanctuary cities,” such as Seattle, Los Angeles, Boston and New York, have said they would resist Trump’s immigration order with legal action.
7 News political expert and Florida International University professor Brian Fonseca said that Gimenez’s decision will likely have a big impact on the South Florida community.
“I think it’s gonna have a profound effect,” he said. “One thing is the undocumented immigrant that gets detained by law enforcement, but then it’s the family and friends that also are implicated in this as well.”
Fonseca said it is not surprising that the county will comply because it is one of the largest recipients of grants from the Department of Justice. The county receives about $10 million in grants from the feds, and Gimenez likely believes the threat is real, Fonseca said.
“It essentially means that Miami-Dade County will no longer defy federal immigration laws,” Fonseca said. “So now, when undocumented immigrants are detained, there’s an obligation on behalf of Miami-Dade County to, essentially, process them to immigration and whatever follows after that.”
Fonseca emphasized that this will not mean a deportation force will be put on the streets targeting undocumented immigrants.
“What this does not mean,” Fonseca added, “and I think is very important for our viewers, is that this isn’t a deportation force. A lot of people thought that there’d be people out on the streets targeting undocumented immigrants and detaining them intentionally with the purpose of deportation. That’s not what this is.”
Fonseca said that if an undocumented immigrant, who can’t have a driver’s license, was to be pulled over, police would tell federal immigration authorities.
“What I suspect would happen is you would be questioned, you would be detained and then you would be communicated to immigration officials as being an undocumented immigrant here in South Florida, and then, subsequently, likely, deported,” Fonseca said.
Giminez spoke about his decision on Fox News, Friday morning. “The message of Miami-Dade County has been: We are not a sanctuary city. We have never been a sanctuary city,” Giminez said. “We provide the federal government with information whenever we arrest somebody who is an illegal immigrant.”
“We took an oath when we took office, that we would defend and protect the constitutional laws of the United States, the State of Florida and Miami-Dade County.”
When the news of Gimenez’s decision was made public before 6 p.m., dozens were already protesting Trump’s orders, including one to halt the immigration of people from seven predominantly Muslim countries to the U.S., in Downtown Miami. Nearly a hundred protesters gathered later in the protest.
“As a resident of Miami, growing up in Miami, I know that refugees helped make this city what it is, and I just can’t tolerate this treatment,” Emily Nostro said.
“If he wants to keep and be reelected next year, he should really stand with his community, as well as not fall into Trump’s hate,” Mariana Martinez said.
Besides taking steps to stop accepting Syrian refugees into the U.S., Trump is expected to suspend the United States’ broader refugee program for 120 days, which includes suspending the practice of issuing visas for people from seven predominantly Muslim countries in the Middle East and Africa. Some of these countries are torn by warfare.
Groups seeking to help those from these countries agree Trump’s plan is a step backwards.
“We do have in place, and we have had in place, a very effective system of scrutinizing our immigrants and scrutinizing the refugees that come to this country,” said Wilfredo Ruiz, Communications Director of the Center of American and Islamic Relations (CAIR), “so Mr. Trump is just continuing his campaign.”
Trump’s orders were a step in the wrong direction, Jane Atchison said at Thursday’s protest.
“As a Jewish person, I feel that when you start banning a group of people and registering them, that you’re stepping toward Hitler-dom,” Atchison said.
Frank Bersach said that Trump’s orders should be embraced.
“Maybe the extreme is too extreme, but we want safety, and that is what a lot of people are concerned about. That’s why the election swung a certain way.”
Organizers said the protest would last a few hours and not move from the Torch of Freedom. However, Friday afternoon, protesters gathered again to voice their disapproval at Giminez’s order.
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