Forty Religious Leaders Ask Miami-Dade to Reject Gimenez's Sanctuary City Ban

Forty Religious Leaders Ask Miami-Dade to Reject Gimenez's Sanctuary City Ban
Office of the Miami-Dade County Mayor
Republicans claim to be a party of good old Christian values. They take photos at church, post prayer psalms on Twitter, install unqualified Christian moonbats to run the Department of Education (see: DeVos, Betsy), and quote Jesus in public whenever it's convenient. But despite the fact that Jesus spent about 95 percent of his time helping the poor and downtrodden, his name hasn't really come up during the GOP's crackdowns on war refugees and poor immigrants this year.

So perhaps getting scolded by literally scores of priests, rabbis, reverends, imams, and faith leaders will be enough to persaude Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez to overturn his recent order declaring that Miami-Dade is not a "sanctuary" county to comply with Donald Trump's increasing crackdown on immigrants, both undocumented and legal.

Today, 40 Miami-based religious leaders signed a letter asking Miami-Dade to overturn Gimenez's decision. After weeks of controversy, the County Commission will hold a special meeting this Friday to debate whether to overrule the mayor.

"Many of the individuals affected by the mayor's change in policy fled violence and abject poverty," write the religious leaders, speaking to the Commission. "For them, the mayor's decision could be the difference between life and death. For others, the decision could result in families being torn apart, in children growing up with only one parent or perhaps neither. You, as our commissioners, have the opportunity to protect these residents of Miami-Dade County."

The signatures come from male and female priests, rabbis, imams, and even a few archdeacons, including one from the large Episcopal Diocese of South Florida, which stretches from Key West to Martin County. The massive list also includes Randolph P. McGrorty, the executive director of Miami's Catholic Legal Services, which helps aid poor immigrants and refugees in South Florida.

The letter was hand-delivered to every member of the Miami-Dade Commission today.

The list represents the second massive open letter to Gimenez this month. Earlier in February, 48 civil rights groups and legal experts said Gimenez's January 26 decision, which came one day after Trump issued an executive order threatening to withhold federal money from areas that refuse to comply with requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). In 2013, Miami-Dade passed a resolution ordering jails to ignore requests to detain undocumented people on behalf of ICE unless ICE repaid the county. But Gimenez nixed that rule last month. In the weeks since, he has morphed from a mayor as exciting as eggshell paint into a lightning rod for criticism.

"It is no more acceptable today to tear down bridges between people in the name of community security than it was in 2013," today's letter says.

Friday's meeting comes as ICE is ratcheting up its enforcement operations, frightening immigrant communities nationwide. Over the past week, ICE arrested close to 700 undocumented immigrants in a new series of raids — but civil liberties groups have said they fear the raids are just the beginning of a long, dark winter to come. Rumors have swirled for weeks that ICE has planned raids in Miami, but the agency has so far denied that any enforcement actions have taken place here.

Gimenez, however, has not spent much time speaking with or addressing his critics. Instead, he has lobbed manufactured insults at local labor organizers, locked protesters out of public property, (possibly) ducked phone calls from constituents, and spread untruths on Spanish-language radio to defend himself. A group of eight activists has also gone on a hunger strike this week to protest the mayor's order.

And now, Gimenez has drawn the ire of a decent piece of the city's religious community.

"As a community of immigrants, whether it be our neighbors, our congregants, or our families, we know that we are strongest when we stand together and lift up the most vulnerable among us," the letter says. "We are disheartened by the recent decision by Mayor Carlos Gimenez to overturn the detainer-policy resolution unanimously adopted by the Board of County Commissioners in 2013."

Though Gimenez and Miami-Dade Police Director Juan Perez have stressed that county cops will not act as ICE agents for Trump, the president has been open about his desire to deputize local cops to hunt down undocumented people. County Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava, a Democrat, has asked the county attorney for information as to whether Miami-Dade would comply with a Trump order to begin patrolling for immigrants, but so far, county officials have been reluctant to answer. Perez told the Miami Herald last week that it was "still too soon" to answer whether Dade would comply with such an order from the president.

In the meantime, both the aforementioned civil rights groups and today's group of religious leaders warned that the order is driving a wedge between Miami's huge contingent of immigrants and the local government.

"We embrace the faith principle of welcoming the stranger, and we call on you, our county commissioners, to advance policies that are inclusive and welcoming and that strengthen local protections for affected members of our community," the letter says.
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Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.