Miami-Dade Commission Votes 9-3 to Make Mayor's Anti-Sanctuary-City Order Official

Miami-Dade Commission Votes 9-3 to Make Mayor's Anti-Sanctuary-City Order Official
Miami-Dade County Office of the Mayor

Hundreds filled Miami-Dade County Hall today to demand that commissioners rescind County Mayor Carlos Gimenez's January 26 order that Miami comply with President Trump's crackdown on immigrant-protecting "sanctuary" communities. Some residents even cried in front of the commission while recounting their own stories of immigration to the Magic City.

But when it came time to vote, many commissioners openly said the sad, scared testimonies of their constituents didn't matter. Then the commission ratified Gimenez's order by 9 to 3.

"We all have stories, stories that can get to the heart of anyone," Commissioner Rebeca Sosa, herself an immigrant, said before voting in favor of Gimenez's order. "But we worked very hard, and we were able to be legalized." Residents' tales shouldn't sway the commission from complying with Trump, she argued.

After the commissioners voted to uphold Gimenez's order (Commissioners Daniella Levine Cava, Jean Monestime, and Xavier Suarez made up the three "no" votes), the crowd erupted in anger, chanting "Shame! Shame on you!" at the dais. Some attendees even threw white flowers at the commissioners.

"May God have mercy on your souls!" one woman shouted.

"You too," Sosa responded. One commissioner caught on a hot microphone then urged Sosa not to respond to the chants.

The vote capped off a month of protests, acrimony, and infighting among Miami-Dade residents, immigration activists, and elected representatives. On January 25, Trump issued his order, which threatened to withhold federal money from "sanctuary" cities that refuse to comply with ICE requests to detain undocumented people in local jails so they can be deported.

Most independent legal analysts wrote that Trump's threat was largely hollow and required further help from Congress to implement. Groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and Southern Poverty Law Center said detaining undocumented people could force Miami to spend millions incarcerating people and leave the county open to wrongful-detention lawsuits.

But one day later, Gimenez became the first leader of a major metro area to agree to Trump's order. The move sparked multiple protests outside County Hall, including a seven-person hunger strike leading up to today's meeting. A group of 48 civil rights leaders and experts said this month they opposed the mayor's decision, as did a coalition of 40 religious leaders.

During the meeting today, Miami-Dade residents spoke for hours, begging the county to rescind Gimenez's decision.

"The real question is, do we want to be tearing apart families and children?" one female constituent asked.

Another woman, dressed in a blue hoodie, stood before the dais and announced herself as a retired Miami-Dade County Police captain who worked to solve sex crimes. She urged the commission to rescind Gimenez's ruling, stressing that the decision could frighten undocumented people away from cops and cause serious crimes to go unreported.

(Another woman, Luimar Garza, sang "My Country 'Tis of Thee" from the lectern and added that she did not want to see her country "destroyed." But she never made it clear which side of the issue she came down on.)

A handful of Trump supporters in "Make America Great Again" hats and T-shirts, including former Trump campaign volunteer Juan Fiol, spoke as well, and dismissed the protesters as paid agitators trying to trick the county government by using "sob stories."

But it was hard to dismiss the obvious pain many immigrant speakers brought before the county government. Multiple undocumented mothers spoke. All begged their elected representatives to revoke Gimenez's decision. Some wept.

None of that testimony swayed commissioners.

Before the vote, Gimenez himself also spoke. He stressed that complying with ICE detainer requests would be the only step the county has agreed to take. Gimenez's order does not instruct local cops to round up undocumented people — but Trump has openly said he wants to deputize police to do this. Likewise, a draft memo obtained today by the Associated Press said Trump officials in January floated the idea of using 100,000 National Guard troops to hunt down undocumented people.

Gimenez, however, promised he would openly resist the Trump administration if it were to try to persuade local cops to begin acting as an impromptu "deportation force." Commissioner Jose "Pepe" Diaz then asked the county to draft a resolution codifying that statement into law.

Under Gimenez's order, people arrested by local cops will be run through a database to see if ICE has requested they be detained due to their immigration status. If a "detainer request" exists, Miami-Dade jails will hold that person for a maximum of 48 hours.

Multiple commissioners, including Sosa and Javier Soto, said Gimenez's order would affect only "criminals" and "prisoners" picked up by local law enforcement. (Soto went on a disjointed, minutes-long rant about how people worried about the ICE detention simply shouldn't commit crimes.)

But that's a distortion of the facts: ICE detainers can be applied to anyone accused, rather than convicted, of a crime, which means innocent people wrongly picked up by law enforcement could be subject to detention or deportation.

Commissioner Jean Monestime, a Haitian immigrant, warned that history will reflect poorly on Miami-Dade for complying with Trump.

"Many years from today, will we be recognized as the beautiful, mosaic tapestry that this county has always been credited to be, or the paradoxical poster child for the president’s anti-immigrant executive order?" he asked.

But at roughly 4 p.m., the commission finally voted to uphold Gimenez's order. Commissioner Sally Heyman — a Democrat who represents Miami Beach — sponsored the ordinance. Earlier this month, the Miami Beach City Commission passed a resolution urging Heyman to reconsider. She did not.

The sanctuary-city fight now, however, is likely not over. A group of lawyers, including some from the University of Miami and Southern Poverty Law Center, vowed yesterday to sue the county if Gimenez's order was upheld.


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