Sanctuary Cities With More Money to Lose Than Miami Are Still Standing Up to Trump

Office of the Miami-Dade County Mayor
Last Wednesday, President Donald Trump signed an order threatening federal funding to "sanctuary cities" that won't fully comply with his immigration crackdown. It took less than 24 hours for Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez to crumble.

Gimenez wasn't in town Friday to defend his decision, but spokesman Michael Herandez insisted the move had nothing to do with Trump's racist proposition that undocumented people commit violent crimes such as rape and murder.  Rather, he said, Gimenez simply made a pragmatic choice to protect Miami-Dade's $7 billion budget because the county allegedly could lose $350 million annually by refusing to fall in lockstep with the White House.

But multiple cities with even more federal money on the line have angrily refused to comply with Trump's order. Philadelphia, for example, has an operating budget of just $4 billion and receives an estimated $350 million in federal grants, but that city's mayor, Jim Kenney, has said numerous times that his city can weather whatever Trump throws at it.

While New York City's operating budget is a whopping $84.8 billion, analysts say the city could lose a maximum of $8.8 billion in federal aid — more than 10 percent of the city's budget. But New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has not only refused to bend the knee but also threatened to take Trump to court over the order.

Here's Boston Mayor Marty Walsh even offering City Hall as a sanctuary for his city's undocumented residents:
But Gimenez, who takes pride in referring to himself as a "strong mayor" in Miami-Dade, has cold feet despite the fact that he himself immigrated to Miami from Cuba without papers as a young man. His county today has an estimated 150,000 undocumented immigrants living in it.

There are a few huge caveats that make Gimenez's decision last week even more nonsensical. For one, nobody has actually imposed sanctions on Miami yet. And no one knows if the Trump administration would have considered Miami-Dade a sanctuary county, nor does anyone know how much money anyone could lose if Trump's policy becomes law.

Trump's executive order last week almost definitely can't be implemented without congressional help — Hernandez Friday said Miami-Dade could lose as much as $355 million annually by flouting Trump's rules, but that's simply an estimation. Without a breakdown from Trump officials, nobody knows what impact any sort of "sanctuary-city ban" would have on Miami. So far, Gimenez has simply cited threats from Barack Obama's U.S Department of Justice last year, but that agency sends Miami-Dade only slightly more than $10.7 million per year.

Other city leaders have effectively called Trump's bluff. Gimenez, however, bent at the mere mention of punishment before anyone even handed him a bill.

Also, Trump's executive order, which Gimenez cited in his own order last week, is called the Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States Act and is based on the factually incorrect and racist idea that undocumented Latin Americans are violent criminals committing rape and murder in the United States. This is demonstrably, empirically incorrect, yet the Gimenez administration couldn't be bothered to even refute those claims in its news conference last week.

So with those huge issues out of the way, should Gimenez be praised for acting to protect the county budget? No, not really. Cities with smaller budgets than Miami-Dade's say they're ready to protect their immigrants. Portland, Oregon, with a budget of just $4.2 billion, is also resisting Trump, as is Seattle, with a $5.7 billion budget. (Both cities, however, receive proportionally smaller packages of federal aid than Miami.)

Again, these are all simply estimated losses. Nearly every independent legal expert agrees Trump's authority to revoke federal dollars is slim at best. Legal experts say New York City's losses, for example, will likely total only in the tens of millions or hundreds of millions.

Miami-Dade, like every city mentioned above, would likely lose far less than its maximum total if it refuses to kiss Trump's ring. But Gimenez appears too frightened to take that chance.

The message, then, is clear: Say the word, dear leader, and Miami's mayor will follow.